04:30 GMT02 December 2020
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    Artists trying to enter the US to attend the SXSW Music Festival (March 13-19) have complained that racial profiling is being used as an excuse to turn them away, in a further escalation of the controversial policy of US President Donald Trump to increase immigration controls on Muslims.

    The SXSW Festival — which has been running since 1987 — attracts artists from around the world to venues in Austin, Texas. However, some have been turned away on arrival, having been refused entry on the grounds on having invalid visas.

    British jazz group United Vibrations — which includes brothers Yussef, Ahmed and Kareem Dayes — were told they were barred from entry under the executive powers imposed by Trump.

    "We are sad to announce we will nopt be performing at SXSW in Texas because our ESTA's have been revoked under the new Executive order. We were looking forward to connecting with our brothers and sisters stateside to share our music. Why weren't we let in? our Names? the Music? The colour of our skin?" they wrote on Facebook.

    They later said it was because of profiling under the so-called "Muslim ban."

    Meanwhile, alternative goth band Soviet Soviet were also refused entry, but claimed they were "treated like criminals."

    "We arrived in Seattle on the afternoon of March 8. We made our way to passport control with our ESTA [Electronic System for Travel Authorization visa], a letter from our American label (in which the label owner declared we would be performing a series of concerts for promotional purposes only and that we would in no way be receiving any form of payment for those shows) and a written invitation on the part of SXSW in hand," the band posted on Facebook.

    "We were all […] interrogated individually, in three different rooms. We were able to have the agents speak directly to the owner of our American label without any success, however. After almost 4 hours of questions they told us their verdict. They had decided to deport us back to Italy and deny us entry into the United States. They declared us illegal immigrants even if our intention was by no means to look for work in the United States nor never go back to Italy," they said.

    "We accepted this situation even if we tried to no end to explain the situation and that we were not receiving any form of payment, but there was simply no way of convincing the officials we spoke to. From that moment onwards, we became three illegal immigrants and were treated like criminals," the band said.

    ​Several other bands have also been refused entry, including well-known Danish music producer ELOQ, who said he was detained for five hours and then put into a cell.

    "Hi! So as some might know, I'm unfortunately not going to Austin, TX for SXSW. This is because i got denied entry while transferring in LAX, Los Angeles," he said in a statement.

    "I took my travels from Denmark with all the right papers and my ESTA in check (Which i got informed by SXSW was a eligible visa to travel on for showcase purposes). Then when I landed in LAX i got informed that my ESTA had been revoked mid-flight and I got sent in for an interview by the border cops. Here he stripped me of all my belongings, even my laces and my earring, and asked me a bunch of questions about my stay and who I was and my intentions. He ended it all with saying that I was going to be denied entry today and that on any further similar trips, i would need a Performance Visa, NOT an ESTA," he said.

    Several other artists have also been denied entry, which the US authorities say is because of confusion over the type of visa required to appear at SXSW.

    "Citizens of 38 countries may be eligible to register under ESTA and enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or apply for a B visa instead. While the odds of success entering under Visa Waiver Program  (VWP) are favorable, the consequences of being denied entry are determined by Customs Border Patrol agent[s] during your screening at the port of entry. We encourage you to be very careful when using the VWP Program to perform at SXSW, the guidelines to do so are very strict," according to the SXSW website.


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    Muslim ban, border agency, music, musicians, SXSW, US Customs and Border Control, Donald Trump, Austin, Texas, US
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