Canadian musician held for 11 hours at Gatwick before deportation
A Canadian musician flying into the UK to play in a concert was held by airport immigration officials for almost 11 hours and told she would be deported under strict new legislation governing visiting performers.
Allison Crowe, 27, claims she and her two band mates were fingerprinted and had their passports confiscated shortly after flying into Gatwick Airport.
She said they were shut in a room where they were denied contact with the outside world for six hours and that she was told she would never perform in Europe again once her passports had been stamped by the UK Border Authority as "barred from entry".
The group were targeted because they failed to obtain a Certificate of Sponsorship from the venues they were playing in, a little-known visa requirement brought in last November to combat illegal immigration and terrorism.
The new legislation is opposed by leading figures of the art world including sculptor Antony Gormley, the head of the National Portrait Gallery and of the National Theatre, who along with 5,000 others, have signed a petition calling the Government to review it amid fears it could restrict artistic freedom.
It was also blamed for the decision by celebrated Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami pulling out of his debut production at English National Opera earlier this month.
Both The Halo in London's Battersea, and the LOT in Edinburgh, where Miss Crowe was due to play this weekend, say they knew nothing about the new legislation and that other previous overseas artists who have performed for them since the legislation took effect had experienced no problems.
Miss Crowe's manager Adrian du Plessis said she and her colleagues were seized as soon as they arrived in London at 10am on Tuesday and were held until 8.30pm before being released, without their passports and with orders to return for deportation on Friday.
He said she was told by one immigration officer that she would struggle to ever work in Europe again once she had been rejected from the UK.
"Allison has worked very hard since she was 15 building up her career and Europe is one of her biggest bases so she was devastated," he said.
"We have since been in contact with the German authorities where she is going for the next leg of her tour and they say this is ridiculous and they will welcome her."
He said Miss Crowe has performed in the UK, sharing a stage with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy on one occasion, every year since 2005 without problems.
"It's crazy that Allison has the wear the scarlet letter for the rest of her days simply because she came to Britain to perform and didn't know about some strict new legislation. This will clearly influence the cultural traffic to this country but there's also a human element – Allison is a Commonwealth citizen who did nothing wrong but was interrogated and treated like a criminal. Do the British border police really not have more important things to do to protect the country?"
Manick Govinda, who is leading the campaign against the new rules, said many arts venues were still unaware of the requirements.
"There have been a number of incidents involving musicians but this seems particularly heavy handed," he said.
"You would have thought that an established Canadian musician, who has performed here many times before, would not have posed a threat."
A Home Office spokesperson said: "We recognise and welcome the contribution of creative artists but it's important that everyone coming to the UK plays by the rules.
"We have taken many steps to ensure that everyone – including foreign artists – know about the new rules. This includes a national advertising campaign, detailed guidance and a dedicated helpline for queries on the points based system, as well as wide consultation with arts organisations in the UK."