Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:
From Afropop star to dancers: these artists are not welcome in the Netherlands
An empty podium at the Latin festival Pal Mundo. The canceled world première of a theater play by a well-known Congolese director.
And an incomplete circus in the Amsterdam Milky Way. Due to strict European Union visa regulations, non-western artists are refused entry every year. Also to the Netherlands. Art and culture networks try to do something about this at European Union level.
On Thursday 10 January hip-hop dancers Hamza (20 years old), Omar and Ahmed (21 years old) had passport control at Eindhoven Airport with their Schengen visa. They were invited to take part in an international dance battle in the Parktheater in the city, but will not make it to that competition.
Instead, the three are taken to a prison for ‘illegal’ immigrants in Rotterdam. Two of them have to stay there for five days and one or a week. Then they are put on a plane back to Marrakesh.
“They pretended we were serious criminals or terrorists and they searched us up to our shoes,” Hamza tells the NOS. The incident since it came out last week caused commotion in North Africa. Various Moroccan and Pan-African media write about “the three hip-hop dancers who have been treated as criminals in the Netherlands”.
Hamza does have an idea of what might have happened. On the flyer that the hip-hop dancers had with them to show what they came to do was that the festival would start on January 5th. “But because we only got a visa very late, we could not fly until January 10. We wanted to join the last two days.”
There was also doubt about their whereabouts and the boys did not have enough money with them, says Hamza. Those who visit the Netherlands with a Schengen visa must have 34 euros per day per person in their pocket or have a bank account. The three boys had exactly enough money for one person. Hamza: “But nobody told us that when we got our visa.”
For Michiel van der Padt, who works for the mobility information point at the DutchCulture organization, it is the first time that he hears a story about artists who are brought to a prison in the Netherlands. “Usually, artists who are refused will not receive a visa.”
In recent years, the rules have only become stricter, he says. According to the organization, a problem is that artists must comply with the same rules as, for example, business people. “Like a letter by the employer and proof of a stable salary, most artists do not have both.”
Together with other European art and culture networks, DutchCulture advocates other rules, such as a special artists’ visa or a white list for artists who have already performed in Europe.
The fact that embassies have outsourced visa applications for short stays since 2013 to private agencies does not help, says DutchCulture. Earlier on you could apply for a visa at the Dutch embassy, but that is no longer possible. In countries such as Morocco, which has a Dutch embassy, applications must also be made to such an agency.
Arnold de Boer also ran into that. He is the guitarist of punk band The Ex. At the gig last week in the Milky Way, the Ethiopian circus with whom the band would perform was not complete. The visa application had to be made via a private company in Ghana.
De Boer: “That makes all communication impossible.” In any case, it is strange that you have to send your passports from Ethiopia to Ghana. Before, you could consult with people from the embassy and get an explanation, or they could tell you what was missing for an application. Now it’s guessing why you do not get a visa because the application goes through a private company.”
Large festivals are also affected, as turned out at the recent edition of Pal Mundo, the largest Latin and Caribbean festival in Europe. Although the organization employs someone who is busy fulltime with visa applications, the Nigerian singer Tekno could not enter the Netherlands.
“It was all very difficult, through the French embassy,” says Manuel Acosta of the festival. “But it is always difficult with artists from Africa.” And for smaller festivals it is even more difficult. …
He [Michiel van der Padt] points to their rights. According to a UNESCO agreement, which the Netherlands has signed, it is a right of artists from developing countries to show their artistic expressions here. Van der Padt: “How can we speak of international exchange, when a considerable part of the worldwide artists and artists can not even leave their own country for a working visit?”
Hamza also does not intend to leave Morocco permanently. “I am studying here and I have also performed in Rotterdam before, and then I also went back.”