More than 41,000 people have signed a petition calling for an acclaimed Syrian musician to be allowed to perform at a British music festival after the Home Office rejected his request for a five-day visa.
Ibrahim Keivo, a Syrian refugee who was granted asylum in Germany more than two years ago, was due to sing and play the oud – a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument – at the Oxford Chamber Music Festival on September 27.
He was also scheduled to participate in an educational programme for children and young people.
A change.org petition calling for the Home Office’s decision to be reversed has garnered widespread support, including from famous faces such as Queen guitarist Brian May.
Surprising to hear Home Office has argued a famous Oud player lacks skills (!) to attend
Oxchambermusic</a> fest:<a href="https://t.co/iAzeAVtZ4x">https://t.co/iAzeAVtZ4x</a> ocmf</p>— Anneliese Dodds (AnnelieseDodds) September 15, 2017
Priya Mitchell, artistic director of the Oxford Chamber Music Festival and creator of the online petition, said all of the requirements demanded by the Home Office had been fulfilled.
“Everybody connected with the festival is shocked by the Home Office’s decision to decline his visa,” she wrote in the petition, which is calling for 50,000 signatures.
“Being forced to leave his home and losing everything was hard enough. To be refused the opportunity to share his art with us all is simply cruel,” she added.
Mitchell described the situation as a “crying shame for everyone: for him, for the audience, and for the country,” and said she feared they would need a “divine miracle” for Keivo to make it to the festival, which runs until October 1.
Responding to questions about the case, a Home Office spokesperson told Euronews that all visa applications are “considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.”
“When individuals are applying for Tier 5 temporary worker visas, their sponsors must demonstrate that the role could not have been filled by someone already resident in the UK. Where no evidence is provided – such as written support from an appropriate industry body – the application will be refused.”
In a post online, Keivo said he was “really heavy-hearted” not to be granted the five-day visa.
“I fulfilled all the necessary actions and provided all the paperwork that the British Consulate in Düsseldorf asked me to. It is the first time that this happened and I had been touring throughout Europe since 2002 and invited to countless concerts and festivals,” he said.
He added that he had “absolutely no intention” of attempting to stay in Britain, having already been granted humanitarian asylum in Germany.
“All I want is to present my music in this beautiful country.”