Musicians' Union has issued a full statement following news that several British musicians were denied entry to the United States to perform at SXSW.
Earlier this week a number of musicians intending to travel with promoters Jazz:Refreshed had their ESTAs revoked, meaning that they could not gain entry to the United States.
The move meant that United Vibrations and Yussef Kamaal - two of the most exciting jazz groups in the country right now - could not perform at SXSW.
Months of planning went into the showcase, with Jazz Re:Freshed issuing a lengthy statement via Afro Punk. This part feels particularly relevant:
It is quite interesting to note (or not), that whilst no reason was given for the revocation of the ESTA’s, we do find it telling that the three British born men with Muslim sounding names (who are in fact NOT Muslim) and their band mate, are the only members of our 20 strong travelling party to have their ESTAs revoked, after being approved as early as November 2016. Although, we must also be very clear that we do not know the actual reasons for the revocation, as reasons were not given and probably never will be.
Musicians' Union have now issued a statement, indicating that they are monitoring the case and have appealed for extra information on behalf of the musicians effected. The statement opens:
The MU had reassurances that SXSW falls into the very narrow exemption, which allows artists invited to perform at official SXSW showcases entry to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (ESTA).
We are aware of many artists who have been allowed into the US and will be performing, but for a few it is a very different story. The Department of Homeland Security, which administers the Visa Waiver Programme, has revoked the ESTAs of five UK musicians leaving them no time to allow an alternative O, P or B Visa to be sought. Three of the musicians perform in two bands; none of them have received any reasoning from the US authorities as to why this revocation has come about. This renders the advice - that performing under an ESTA for an official showcase is acceptable - as unreliable.
Dave Webster, MU National Organiser for Live Performance, and Chair of the Music Industry Visa Task Force, says:
"We have escalated this to the highest level in the UK to try to ascertain what is going on. It is appalling that these artists have been denied the opportunity to showcase at SXSW. The US Embassy in London has provided no explanation. A letter from Nigel Adams MP and Kerry McCarthy MP requesting an urgent meeting with the US officials has been sent. "Since the formation of the Music Industry Visa Task Force in 2015 some progress on these issues has been made, however this latest development represents a huge setback."
Horace Trubridge, MU Assistant General Secretary says: “The amount of public funding that has gone into getting our UK artists to perform at SXSW this year will have been wasted. It is outrageous that these ESTAs have been revoked and more outrageous that the musicians affected have not been told why."