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UK Government Hostile Environment Impacts on Edinburgh Festivals

Performers Forced to Cancel Trips Due to Visa Controls.

The UK Government’s hostile environment is having a ‘truly devastating’ impact on the ability to attract international guests to Edinburgh’s festivals, according to an SNP MSP who will lead a debate at Holyrood today (Thursday). Since the Tory government introduced hard-line visa controls, visa applications for performers have been hit by refusals, errors and delays, with some acclaimed international writers, actors and musicians forced to cancel trips to festivals across the capital. Festival organisers have previously described the visa process for performers who want to appear at Edinburgh arts festivals as “humiliating” and “Kafkaesque.” The SNP has repeatedly warned that the current UK one-size-fits-all approach to immigration is failing Scotland. Scotland needs an immigration policy suited to our specific circumstances and needs. Speaking in the debate, Gordon Macdonald MSP will say, “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival, and the city is well recognised for it's world-leading festival scene. “Artists are facing a humiliating application process. Their visas are being refused. And, due to the inaction from the UK Government, artists are being deterred from coming here. “Quite frankly, this is an utter shambles and completely unacceptable. “The Edinburgh festivals rely on the seamless flow of artists from across the world and it’s time for the UK Government to listen. Listen to the industry and take action to make sure that Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK are open for culture. “If they won’t listen, then they should devolve immigration and let the Scottish Government get on with building a fair and functional immigration system." Sara Shaarawi, project manager of the Arab arts showcase, said, “We had a crew member that was refused because he'd never been in the UK, when in reality he had been in the UK with a show in 2009 and in 2012. We had a Palestinian artist who applied twice and one of the refusal letters spoke repeatedly about their circumstances in Egypt, when in reality he wasn't based in Egypt. One letter was simply empty, they didn't remember to fill in the "reason of refusal" section. “We paid for premium services which should take five days and it would actually take weeks, we dealt with unnecessary delays and anxieties and were given no reason as to why passports were being held.”

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