Two Palestinian writers have been denied access to UK visas by the British Government, it has been revealed.
Ali Abukhattab and Samah al-Sheikh, who are husband and wife and writers based in Gaza, were invited to talk about their work at the Shubbak Festival – a celebration of contemporary Arab art in London – later this month.
The chairman of the second Shubbak fesitval, Omar al-Qattan, said that the pair were refused UK visas because they did not qualify as having business reasons and because the authorities were not satisfied that they would return to Gaza after the evcent.
Qattan dismissed the reasoning behind the refusal, telling The Guardian: “Obviously they were coming for work, they were coming to do an evening in the festival.”
He added: “It is completely ridiculous. I think they are very humiliated and very disappointed. It would have been the first time they had come to the UK and London.
“It is very distressing. London is supposed to be an open city, a welcoming city, especially for artists, so this is very disappointing.”
The festival runs for 15 days and kicks off on June 22nd. One of the reasons behind the idea of it was to change people's perceptions of countries that are often in the news for all the wrong reasons. However, to be able to do this the festival organisers need to be able to invite influential and inspirational speakers from around the world to take part.
Mr Qattan explained that there isn't enough “exchange” between cultures at the moment. He continued: “There are a lot of things going on and a lot of Britons coming to the region and a growing and increasingly influential diaspora from the Arab world in the UK, especially London.”
The Home Office has not issued any comment as it generally declines to comment on individual visa cases.