Artists set to perform at SXSW denied entry into US

Posted on March 15th, 2017 in Recent posts by .

 

United-Vibrations-2

 

Several artists have been denied entry into the US ahead of the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) taking place March 10-19 in Austin, Texas. Italian group Soviet Soviet, London-based United Vibrations, Canadian/Egyptian Massive Scar Era and Danish producer ELOQ are among acts to have announced their travel rejection.

SXSW is a broad and diverse festival, covering film, comedy and music in a range of venues across Austin. In 2016 the festival welcomed more than 2,200 performers, representing more than 67 countries. While visa complications for travelling musicians are not uncommon, in light of recent comments made and orders put forward by President Trump in particular, the nature of these complications are being increasingly questioned.

Trump’s first Executive Order, though blocked by federal judges, denied visitors from seven African and Middle Eastern countries entry to the US. His second revised attempt, set to be implemented on March 16, has removed Iraq from the list of banned nations and exempts current visa-holders, yet still refuses entry to visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. Soviet Soviet, Massive Scar, ELOQ and United Vibrations have all spoken publicly about their experiences of attempting to travel to Austin for SXSW.

“We arrived in Seattle on the afternoon of March 8,” write Soviet Soviet in a joint public statement. “We made our way to passport control with our ESTA, a letter from our American label… and a written invitation on the part of SXSW in hand.” The group go on to describe how each member was questioned for almost four hours. Despite informing the authorities that they would not be receiving any payment for their performance, nor that they had any intention of staying in the US, they were told they would be denied entry to the country and deported back to Italy. “We accepted this decision as it seemed final at that point. They took our digital fingerprints and took mugshots of us for their file. They confiscated our cell phones and we were denied the possibility of contacting our families and loved ones. Around 10.30pm, two prison officers frisked us, handcuffed us and brought us to jail in a police car. We spent the night in jail and had been escorted there as though we were three criminals.” Read the full statement here

Similarly, ELOQ took to Twitter to inform fans about his experience. He said he would not be playing at SXSW but returning to Denmark, “even though I was informed by SXSW I had the right visa.” He also wrote that he had “been handcuffed and detained in a small very bright room plus a very unpleasant jail cell for 23 hours.” London-based quartet United Vibrations took to social media to question why they had not been let in to the US, asking whether it was down to their “names,” their “music” or “the colour of [their] skin.” Fellow London-based musician Yussef Khamaal, also denied entry, apologised to all those coming out to see him perform.

Heavy metal band Massive Scar Era shared a similar experience, posting a video to social media along with a statement which claims that despite having provided the necessary paperwork and official SXSW visa waiver, and communicating with the festival, the group were denied entry. The band questioned whether one member’s Egyptian passport may have been the issue, as the “bassist is First Nation.” His card was refused however, and was told “he needs to get a DNA test.”

SXSW themselves have come under fire for a contract clause which threatens immigration authority involvement for behaviour adverse to the festival’s interests (Told Slant withdrew their performance for this reason). SXSW have said there are no “deportation clauses” in their current agreements, nor will there be in the future, and have publicly denounced Trump’s travel ban

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