Members of a theatre group from Georgia have been refused visas to perform in the UK, over concerns they will not leave the country after their appearances.
The New Collective, from Tbilisi, had been booked to perform in the week-long Welcome piece at the Flare Festival in Manchester next month. The piece, which is inspired by the famous Chekov play Three Sisters, looks at migration from a contemporary standpoint.
However, UK Visas and Immigration turned down the visa application due to fears that the young members of the group would attempt to remain in UK. The decision was based on the young ages, earnings and lack of dependents of the theatre group members. They were told that without proof of income, they could not be considered “genuine visitors” who would return home to Georgia.
New Collective director, Mareike Wenzel is able to come to Britain as she has a German passport. She told The Guardian that “artists’ freedoms stop at EU borders”.
Ms Wenzel added: “How can I teach students in Georgia and show them the possibilities of an artistic career, when all the time I have to inform them about their limitations?”
Efforts are now being made to reverse the decision and allow the theatre company to perform at the festival. Flare director, Neil MacKenzie, who invited the group to perform, is appealing on their behalf.
He told The Stage: “The bottom line is that UKVI need to have a clear sense that these people are not going to try and abscond.
“What I am trying to do is find an alternative way of proving that they are not a flight risk. I have proposed in a letter to Theresa May that we provide documentation relating to their character and artistic integrity to say that these are genuine people who want to come here for this reason and nothing else.”
A petition is also being organised via the online platform Change.org.