Thursday, 3 July 2008

Government Fears Cultural Terrorism

It appears that the Immigration Department fears an onslaught of foreign culture
by preventing musical groups from attending the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.
Shame on them - and I repeat "Shame on them".
Let Cymru free to invite the world to perform and entertain the people of Wales!

Immigration official’s visit after Llangollen visa woe
Jul 3 2008 by Rhodri Clark, Western Mail

ONE of Britain’s most senior immigration officials will be a guest of honour at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod next week, as the event tries to shake off the visa woes of recent years.

The Eisteddfod was founded after the Second World War to promote peace and understanding through the international language of music, and features hundreds of dancers, singers and instrumentalists from around the world.

But tightened security in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York in September 2001 left many groups of performers struggling to obtain visas from UK embassies for their Llangollen visits.

The low point was the 2004 Eisteddfod, which came after a furore over Bulgarian and Roman- ian asylum-seekers being given easy UK entry because of what the Home Office admitted were “serious failings” in the immigration service. The Government responded by promising to “toughen visa procedure”.

One group of Ukrainian folk singers spent a week camped outside the British Embassy in Kiev in a desperate attempt to secure visas to travel to Llangollen.

An Indian dance troupe which had competed in Llangollen annually for a decade was refused visas, and the mayor of a Bulgarian village turned away a coach-load of British tourists in protest after a local dance group was refused visas for Llangollen.

In 2005, dancers from Macedonia complained of humiliation after being forced to dance outside the British embassy to prove to officials they were genuine performers.

But Eisteddfod organisers are confident there will be fewer visa problems at this year’s event, where Mark Sedwill, international director of the UK Border Agency, will be a day president.

Mervyn Cousins, the Eisteddfod’s executive director, said Mr Sedwill’s visit would be part of the improved dialogue and relationship between the Eisteddfod and officials tasked with controlling immigration to the UK.

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