Pretty Yende: French border police strip-searched me yesterday

Pretty Yende: French border police strip-searched me yesterday


norman lebrecht

June 22, 2021

The South African soprano had a horrendous experience yesterday at the hands of French border officials. Here’s what she shares:

Police brutality is real for someone who look like me. I’ve always read about it on the news and most of my brothers and sister end up being tortured and some fatal cases make headlines and dead bodies suddenly appear with made up stories.
I am one of the very very luck ones to be alive to see the day today even with ill-treatment and outrageous racial discrimination and psychological torture and very offensive racial comments in a country that I’ve given so much of my heart and virtue to and still determined to do so as a legal International citizen on the global stage community.
I’m still shaken thinking that I am one in a million who managed to come out of that situation alive because of one phone call I thought of at the time as I was in shock and traumatized and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. They took all my belongings including my cellphone and told me to write down phone numbers of my close family and friends to call with a landline phone they had on the retention cell, they said they were going to take me to a ‘prison hotel’.
In the meantime while they looked at me like I was a criminal offender. I said, my phone battery is dying, might you have a charger by any chance? The police officer said ‘ listen to me carefully, you will not have your phone… I said what…he continued, listen to me until I finish with a very harsh and condescending tone… I replied…” am I a prisoner?… he rudely said yes… and I decided to comply and just do what they say and not try to ‘defend’ my legal self and this in French soil.
I was stripped and searched like a criminal offender and put on the retention cell on terminal 2B customs control Charles de Gaulle, Paris. It was cold in there, there was no light at the beginning, cold and grey and they left me there alone with the landline phone and a piece of paper they gave me to write down phone numbers of those I could call, most of them refused to address me in English, there were more than 10 police officers I could hear talking and laughingdown the hallway, then I was filled with so many negative thoughts, one was ‘ this is it, the day where my family will be served with a corpse and no one would know what really happened to me…
I have my fourth performance tonight of la Sonnambula at the theatre des champs elysees, I’m very blessed to be able to meet my commitment to it.
We send our sympathies to Pretty Yende. Racism is alive and well at border control in many EU countries. This calls for an apology from President Macron.


  • M McAlpine says:

    She could of course now make an official complaint through her ambassador and demand compensation, not just for herself but for others who might suffer a similar trauma.

    • Lefty says:

      “She could of course now…” Do I detect a hint of judgment or criticism there? No, couldn’t be, coming from M McAlpine, now could it? Rich, white men like him have all the answers.

      • M McAlpine says:

        As you don’t know whether I’m white or rich that is a pretty silly thing to say, but I know it is a knee-jerk assumption from lefties. All I was saying (if you can but take it in) was if it happened to me I would make a complaint via my ambassador. Ms Yende is free to do the same.

        • Paul Dawson says:

          Great response. When I saw his/her comment, I assumed the two of you were acquainted.

        • Peter San Diego says:

          Yes, but equally important is her public statement to shed the brightest possible light on such reprehensible practices.

      • facts please!! says:

        It’s obviously more important to know what happened in the first place.

        Does anyone know what transpired when Miss Yende arrived at Charles de Gaulle leading up to her being detained?

      • Terrance Wasserman says:

        Yende is clearly exaggerating the predicament she put HERSELF in by not having her proper paperwork as if she has no clue about international travel protocols by now.

        Her strip search is a minor inconvenience just like all others who must go through it post 9/11 which is courtesy of radical Islamic terrorists.

        Good thing she wasn’t in Israel, North Korea, Africa or Saudi Arabia knowing how truly severely those countries handle alien nationals. She’s lucky France is much more civilized.

        • Paul says:

          According to her attorney, she did in fact have the proper paperwork. And I suggest you undergo a strip search yourself before so blithely dismissing it.

          • Stelucia says:

            Her “right paperwork” was a three-month Italian permesso di soggiorno that is not valid for travel abroad. She had no work permit for France or at least multiple entry Schengen visa (not valid for taking work in France).

        • Elena Enache says:

          Clearly your level of human compassion is the same as a CO at Guantanamo – allegedly of course. She had her documents in order, her work contract which makes her eligible for entering the country and clearly they could have had the mindset to even call the theatre of Champs Elysees to see that she was the MAIN ACT so in the instance that something (which I don’t believe since I study this and I will tell my story also) was wrong why not have the decency to confirm or NOT confirm that she is supposed to perform at those dates. In this case she obviously was and I very much hope that You Pretty Yende make a public statement where more victims can join and tell our story about then horror and complete lack of evidence, compassion and humanity.

          • Saxon says:

            Um…I am sure you are not claiming that Ms Yende is far to important to bother with things like visas and work permits? Unlike ordinary people.

    • Stelucia says:

      Complaint for what? She did not have the right visa (visa for work). She said on FB that she presented an Italian “permesso di soggiorno” as proof that she has the right to enter France. The Italian permit is just for work in Italy, zero validity in France. She was an illegal migrant in the eyes of the French Border Police and she as treated like one, nothing to do with race. She was lucky to have friends in high places and not end deported. But it is easier to play the R card than admit you tried to enter a country without the right visa.

      • Brian Fieldhouse says:

        Her Italian residence permit gave her the automatic right to enter any country which is a signatory to the Schengen agreement, including France. Ever heard of the European Union?

        • Harvey Eisenberg says:

          For clarification, she didn’t have either an ETIAS travel authorization or French work visa then. ok

          Instead of falling back weakly on her race she should have gotten educated before she traveled. Her agent and the French booker at the venue should of course also have been fully aware of the requirements which have nothing to do with one’s race but one’s legal citizenship status.

          She invoked all the liberal dog whistles to deflect from her ineptitude:
          racial discrimination
          psychological torture
          very offensive racial comments
          etc, etc

          Hopefully she will have learned her personal black supremacy attitude is not a factor in international border matters. Her legal citizenship and work documents are the issue just like anybody else who chooses to travel anywhere in the world including white people! Security even gave her the documents she needed on the spot. Black privilege!!

  • A.L. says:

    Horrific and truly sad and shameful. Indeed this calls for an apology from Macron and a security overhaul at all points of entry in France. When something like this happens we are all, regardless, indirectly impacted and debased as human beings.

  • alfred says:

    A dreadful experience for anyone to go through, regardless of sex, race or nationality. But alas, this says it all for Macron’s France. He should apologise, but probably won’t.

  • Graeme Hall says:

    And yet many on this site are constantly telling us how bad the UK is.

    • Emil says:

      …yes? French border policing (and policing more broadly) is very bad, the UK’s is appalling. It is possible to hold those two thoughts in one’s brain at once.

      (and it is even possible to unite them into ‘border policing is structured to give absolute arbitrary power to a police forced trained to apply it in a racially discriminatory manner’.)

  • Graeme Hall says:

    I’m sure La Plus Belle Voix will tell us that it was the UK’s fault.

  • fred says:

    Strange case, was there a reason for the border police to check her out? We only heard Yende’s side of the story. Though i can perfectly understand her frustration, years ago I suffered the same and worse at JFK, London and Tel Aviv airports and I’m not black and no there was no reason except for the fact that i was a single male traveller which makes you a suspect for these people. There a lot of good policemen but there are many BAD ones as well, why is it that most of the time I meet the bad ones?

    • John Borstlap says:

      At borders one has to pull a trustworthy face.

    • Henry williams says:

      The best is Ben gurian airport tel aviv .boarding
      A flight to London. What synagogue do i belong
      To.i told them i do not belong to any synagogue
      They seemed surprised.
      Good job they did not ask what girls i go out with. and are they a certain religion

      • James says:

        At Ben Gurion they ask questions like that as a standard part of the security; they ask about tiny details to see if you are sure of your facts ie.not making up an identity. They probably thought you were Jewish, that doesn’t mean they think any the less of you if you’re not. I for one am very thankful to them for keeping us safe from very real threats.

        Poor Pretty Yende, sounds like she had a dreadful experience in France.

    • Clarissa says:

      She came without a residence permit.

      • Elena Enache says:

        Dear God, a residence permit is for people who want to have the possibility to LIVE in France, not a temporary visa which I have been informed she could have gotten straight away Stelucia – I hope you see this. She basically just could have gotten the papers if anything was lacking (which I still don’t believe because of her lawyer and my own personal experience with studied of human rights and EU law, migration law, do you need me to go on? I’ve worked with these cases and I’ve been treated like Yende at LAX. (Why? I still don’t know, I called the embassy and they said that what they put in the passport INA section 217 could be basically ANYTHING) In the end I want to inform you that it doesn’t even matter if you have a visa, work permit or whatever. When it’s talk about human rights I must assume (will double check) that France has ratified the treaty of Human Rights which makes the discussion of permit/visa invalid because the problem is now that she wasn’t treated according to the UNs treaty for human rights.

  • Insider says:

    The story is missing the explanation why it was happening. Did she have a wrong visa? Did she arrive from a country on the “red” list, which needs a very special paperwork for entry? Etc.

    • V.Lind says:

      And did she demonstrate “attitude”? Just adding to your reasonable questions, not pre-judging her. It’s appalling behaviour, whatever police suspect — is there a need to treat people like cattle just because they raise some red flag?

      A friend of mine was passing through Dubai in transit to Australia. She was black, Jewish and female — they must have thought they had hit the trifecta, or, as the Brits call it, an accumulator. To make matters worse, she was wearing a Star of David on a gold chain and her hair was in rasta dreads. And she was a gregarious type — stood out in any room. 53 days and a ton of money it took to get her out of their jail.

      Don’t argue at borders, and keep your head down and your mouth shut. I know, it’s an infringement of freedom, but the bad guys took freedom away a long time ago by their actions, and the good guys don’t trust anyone any more. We pay them not to.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Years ago I tried to get through the UK borders control at a ferry harbour as inconspicuously as possible, to avoid delays – wearing sunglasses, a hat, a false beard, a grey raincoat with the collar flipped upwards, my suitcase clamped to my stomach and with my head down. It took my publisher and family 5 days to get me out of prison.

      • Robin Smith says:

        The British would call it “hitting the jackpot” rather than an accumulator.

    • Clarissa says:

      She came without a residence permit.

  • ICP says:

    Take it from me, the little island known as Great Britain can be a helluva lot worse …

  • Laurent H says:

    Nothing about the reason for the arrest? She walked and 10 policemen caught her… Funny story…

  • Ernest says:

    She deserves an explanation and an apology. She is in great demand elsewhere. No need to step foot in France again.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      The expression is “set foot”. “Step” is an intransitive verb, for heaven’s sake.

      • Ernest says:

        It was a typo. We did not come here to be lectured by you. We are here to express our outrage at what happened to Pretty.

      • BrianB says:

        Grammar is racist–like math.

        • Ashu says:

          [Grammar is racist–like math.]

          Math is precisely what grammar is _not_ like. That it is is the misconception of bullying pusillanimous monoglots like the above.

          • earnest says:

            I like your ‘white words’ asserting your liberal ‘white supremacy’ roots of the KKK as your cat metaphor makes you the bigger p***y.

            Farrakhan was right!

  • CSOA Insider says:

    I read the post multiple times to try to comprehend it. This experience must have been dreadful and traumatic. Nothing is worse than injustice and abuse. I feel sorry for Pretty Yende and the hundreds or thousands who suffer for similar acts.

  • MacroV says:

    This is dreadful. I thought this kind of thing only happens in America (I say this as an American).

    There is no mitigating circumstance here; nobody should be treated like this.

  • Karl says:

    I want to hear the French border officials’ side of the story.

    • BRUCEB says:

      …because she must have done something.

    • Clarissa says:

      Du côté de la police, le récit est différent : « Madame Yende n’a pas été maltraitée mais elle a tenté de rentrer sur le territoire Français sans titre de séjour. » Un responsable ajoute « les vérifications faites par la police constituent de la part de celle-ci une volonté de sauver le concert de Madame Yende, les fonctionnaires ayant eu toute latitude de lui refuser l’accès au territoire, ce qu’ils n’ont pas fait ».

      She came without papers !

  • Ines says:

    I must say I was travelling on a night train Milan Paris some years ago. beeing alone, white and female among lots of african young people, which were very rude and noisy and quite violent, Iwas very afraid there and the staff helped me by putting me in an empty compartment ( and this was the case also of a chinese passenger who was completely terrified) while they themselves had a very difficult time dealing with those passengers.
    I sympathize with mišs Yende which is an artist and an intellectual, but I saw also the other side of this situation and I m sure that if the police knew who she was, they would behave very differently.
    I don t understand what happened prior to this “detention”.

    • Stella says:

      I’m sorry to hear that you had what sounds like a frightening encounter whilst traveling alone.

      That said, I’m just slightly confused by your statement ” I sympathize with mišs Yende which is an artist and an intellectual, but I saw also the other side of this situation”

      Are you implying that with the exception of artists and intellectuals, one is to expect very rude, noisy and quite violent behaviour from (Black/ White/ All?) Africans, hence warranting a different approach from the police?

    • Nik says:

      “the other side of this situation”
      What do you mean exactly by “this situation”?

  • John Kelly says:

    Come back to the Met Pretty. We LOVE you. Having watched a few French TV cop shows I would never want to fall into their clutches and I can’t imagine it is different at CDG airport. A disgrace.

    • Mark Mostert says:

      How do you know this? Where in HER account is a reason she was flagged? Oh, wait, I know. All cops/border patrol are racists…. uh huh.

  • Marco Benini says:

    It is the normal procedure of the “garde à vue”. The actual rights of the arrested suspect are actually more than in the past, such as call a lawyer immediatly.
    Why don’t also write about why she was arrested by police?
    note: about 2,200 persons are put in garde à vue” each day in France, about 800k per year.

  • Anon says:

    Forgive this comment for being in poor taste, but I once remember reading that the no. 1 sex-related word searched for by men in France was a colloquialism for Black women. They have some kind of national fetish for African beauties, which Ms. Yende certainly is. The horrible assault she suffered sounds to me to have been sexually motivated.

  • Rick says:

    She is so full of SHIT!!!


    Unfortunately , since the beginning of the pandemic , all french citizens have lost their most basic rights , such as cross the street without a specific reason , or go out of their house after a certain hour , no wonder , foreigners experience even worse . Pr .Macron has turned this country into a dictatorship , let’s face it

  • Clarissa says:

    She came without papers… of course they’re going to detain her. They’re going to detain ANYONE.

    « Madame Yende n’a pas été maltraitée mais elle a tenté de rentrer sur le territoire Français sans titre de séjour. » Un responsable ajoute « les vérifications faites par la police constituent de la part de celle-ci une volonté de sauver le concert de Madame Yende, les fonctionnaires ayant eu toute latitude de lui refuser l’accès au territoire, ce qu’ils n’ont pas fait ».

    “Ms. Yende was not mistreated but tried to enter French territory without a residence permit.” An official adds, “the checks made by the police constitute on the part of this one a desire to save the concert of Madame Yende, the officials having had all the latitude to refuse her access to the territory, which they have not done”.

  • Mark Mostert says:

    Before you go off on the BLM schtick, why not find out WHY she was detrained. She diocesan ‘t say – why not?

  • Joel Stein says:

    According to the Guardian she didn’t have a French visa-the article further states a strip search is standard procedure in that case, Wouldn’t she have a manager who handles that paperwork?

    • Emil says:

      Degrading treatment does not become ‘good’ because it is inshrined in law. I struggle to see why missing paperwork justifies detainee abuse.

  • Sharon says:

    I suspect that a large part of the Ms. Yende’s trauma was that she is from South Africa and she undoubtedly has people close to her who suffered this way in South Africa in the apartheid era and perhaps even more recently.

    That having been said, anyone who has to enforce potentially unpleasant rules and procedures including parents, police, bureaucrats, institutional administrators, teachers, and yes, even nurses, should know that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. If I have to do something that will be unpleasant to my patient, such as deny food or give an injection, I try to sound as sympathetic and apologetic as possible, even if the person is giving me “attitude”. I very seldom have a problem and I’m frequently thanked.

    If the situation was as Ms. Yende described her trauma was largely caused by the swaggering and arrogant attitude of the police.

    In addition, although I may be old fashioned about this in this “non binary” society, I strongly believe that no woman should be stripped search by a man. This can be very traumatic especially if a woman has had a bad experience in the past.

  • PianistW says:

    Happened twice to me when entering the US. And I am not black.

  • Franz1975 says:

    She arrived without the visa she needed to work in France, but she is a black woman, so it is racism and misogyny. Give me a break!