Britain bans Syrian refugee from chamber music festival

Britain bans Syrian refugee from chamber music festival


norman lebrecht

September 11, 2017

Message from the Oxford Chamber Music Festival:

Ibrahim Keivo, a highly regarded Syrian musician, has been refused a 5 day visa to perform at the international Oxford Chamber Music Festival.

Priya Mitchell, the Artistic Director, knows Ibrahim well and cannot comprehend what possible threat he might pose to security by coming to play in Oxford for a few days. Ibrahim has been granted asylum in Germany, where he works and lives with his family. He has impeccable references and is invited by the world famous musician Jordi Savall to tour Europe in 207-2018.

The Home Office has given no reason for its refusal to grant the visa. Ibrahim Keivo was scheduled to sing and play his stringed instrument, the oud in concert but is also going to to be part of an educational programme for children and young people in Oxford. Oxford Chamber Music Festival and Ibrahim Keivo thought they had satisfied all the requirements demanded by the Home Office in detail and with plenty of time to spare, a most painstaking and expensive procedure. So we were completely devastated by the Home Office’s decision to decline his visa.

It is particularly regrettable as the Oxford Chamber Music Festival has a long tradition of inviting international artists from many different parts of the world and has never until now had to cancel an invitation on the grounds that a musician is not welcome in the U.K. We fear that this is perhaps a foretaste of how hard it is going to be for artists to enter the UK once Brexit is completed. Even taking into account the threat of terrorism and the weight of responsibility carried by the Home Office, its decisions should not automatically exclude certain nationalities from short term contracts, especially in the field of art and entertainment. We see music as a universal language, without borders that brings people of all cultures, religion, color of skin, heritage or background closer together and we still hope that Ibrahim Keivo will be granted a visa in time and will feel as welcomed in our country as he should be.


  • Halldor says:

    Yes, that’ll definitely be it: Brexit. Syria, of course, being a leading member of the EU.

    • J says:

      No, the point is that depending on what terms are agreed for Brexit, the same could happen regularly to EU-based artists once Brexit is complete, which would be an enormous loss to both artists and audiences on both sides of the channel. And of course a hardening of the government’s attitude regarding the UK’s borders more generally as a result of the Brexit vote would indeed impact upon artists coming from non-EU countries. In any case, Mr Keivo is a wonderful musician and I do hope the Home Office sees sense in this and allows him to come and make music here.

  • Suzanne says:

    This is such an unnecessary loss for the Oxford festival and British musical life.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    Why don’t the British authorities think back for a moment about the mess they and the French created in the Middle-East.

  • John G. Deacon says:

    There is absolutely no connection whatever between this very unfortunate incident and our post-Brexit future. What do those who write this nonsense think happened with visiting artists before we joined the EU-SSR ??

  • John Borstlap says:

    Since the brexit vote, old resentments are bubbling-up vis-a-vis the continent. This musician has settled in Germany, and probably the motivation was to be strict to continentals esp. German continentals, bringing-in scales and types of dissonances which the home office – with Birtwistle in mind – does not approve of.

  • Margo says:

    The Home Office has the right to refuse a visa, but to give absolutely no reason is unacceptable. The UK is after a democracy under rule of law. if all the requirements have been met, then the HO needs to specify a reason for its refusal.

  • Saxon Broken says:

    Er…isn’t this musician a Syrian refugee? While I would have liked an exception in this case, I can nevertheless comprehend the decision by the home-office to refuse a visa. Afterall, many such refugees are trying to cross the channel to settle in Britain permanently and it is government policy to restrict the number who do so.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Mr Keivo has been performing very successfully all over the world, including the European continent, where he has been welcome as Syrian and as refugee since twenty years. He will probably be very happy not to settle in Britain.
      Meanwhile instead of playing the Holy Virgin, Britain would do very well to realise a bit better how much it has been contributing since over two hundred years in the divide and rule policies that made the Middle-East a place that for many became more and more difficult to live in.

  • James Ross says:

    I rarely sign petitions or comment about governments or politics online, but I am supporting the campaign for this decision to be changed, and would encourage others to do so too. Unless the UK Home Office can demonstrate a valid security reason to deny Mr Keivo a visa – which seems supremely unlikely – its refusal is ignorant and unjust, distrespectful both of him, and of a reputable and well managed music festival’s professional organiser who has delivered excellent concerts in Oxford for many years.

    So long a visiting musician is law-abiding, it should not be the state’s business to decide who performs at concerts.

  • Mark Lammas says:

    This is a good man being mistreated. He’s a musician, for God’s sake, not some kind of strange alien. Get it into your heads, Government; in this world, there’s only folks!