PRESS RELEASE: Phosphoros Theatre Barred From Entering Malta to Perform
February 20 2019
Phosphoros Theatre company were due to travel on Tuesday 19 February in order to perform at the Lost in Migration conference in Malta, an event hosted by the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society. This was due to be followed by two performances at Spazzju Kreattiv in Valleta.
On arrival at Heathrow Terminal 4 we were stopped at check-in for our AirMalta flight. The company’s documents were scrutinised for three hours. We were told that those travelling on refugee travel documents required a visa to enter Malta. This is not the case - there is a list of countries for which a visa is required for a refugee travel document and Malta does not appear.
We were told that we may be able to travel on the morning flight, so stayed overnight at the airport. This morning, after consultation with the President’s office and Malta immigration officials, we were told that one of our actor’s travel documents was not being recognised and that he was not permitted to travel to Malta. Syed has lawful leave to remain in the UK and was granted a certificate of travel after an application. This document grants him the right to travel to 'most countries' according to the application process. We have done significant research alongside an asylum solicitor and nowhere in British and Maltese immigration policy does it say a certificate of travel would not be accepted
Responding to the decision made by Malta immigration, Jamie Bell (asylum solicitor for Duncan Lewis and friend of the company) stated “Phosphoros Theatre company was merely seeking to enter the country at the invitation of the Lost in Migration conference, who were aware that the cast is made up of refugee actors but were not advised of any potential issues.”
We were told by AirMalta staff that our cast were seen as “suspicious” and were subject to verbal aggression and hostility by the head of Air Malta at Heathrow airport.
We are devastated to be denied entry into Malta. As a company dedicated to sharing the stories of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, this was a huge opportunity for us to speak and perform at an international conference, discussing this very topic. We expected to contribute to discussions between UN and EU representatives and finally have our voices heard on a global level.
Our director Dawn Harrison is already in Malta and will address the conference delegates at 17:30 Maltese time to explain the events of the last 24 hours and show a film of our work, to ensure our voices are still heard.
This incident only strengthens our resolve to highlight the ongoing hostility and mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers. This is incarceration by documentation. We hope that in the future our company members receive better treatment from immigration officials and are granted their legal right to travel.
A quote from our company members:
“We have been going through this since the day we left our homes and will probably be facing this for the rest of our lives.
But we need to stand up against this, as we are doing at the moment, and keep challenging this system. Sometimes we try to forget and try to belong, but this system keeps turning us down.”
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