Pretty Yende shows she had the right papers. It’s the police who were racist

Pretty Yende shows she had the right papers. It’s the police who were racist


norman lebrecht

June 24, 2021

French media, including some music sites, rushed to defend their border police for strip-searching the South African soprano Pretty Yende at Charles De Gaulle airport. They reported the police version that she was trying to enter France without the right papers and deserved all she got.

Those media should be ashamed.

Pretty Yende has now hit back.

In the view of many press reports which shared a statement from the police that I, and I quote, ”did not have any documents but my South African passport and needed a visa to enter France”, I’d like to clarify that I DID have all the necessary documents that permit me to move freely and work since 2009. I have an unlimited permesso di soggiorno italiano (Italian residency permit) which is being renewed and a permesso di soggiorno improvvisorio (temporary residence), which I presented to the police at the border control and posting right now. I did NOT need a visa to enter or work in any of the European countries, including France.
“Long-term EU resident status, issued on 02/16/2015 by the Police Headquarters in Milan and with unlimited validity is provided by the article 9 of the Consolidated Immigration Act (Legislative Decree 286/98) and regularly issued in accordance with European Directive 2003/109/EC, implemented by Italy and France and containing the common guidelines for the issuance of such residence permits with unlimited validity.
– This residence permit, issued in paper form, precisely to allow the singer to circulate outside the Italian territory, is valid until 20/09/2021 and indicates that it is issued for self-employment. There are no material errors in the data entered, nor any doubts about its validity or truthfulness.
– The detention at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris by the French Police is absolutely illegitimate since the foreign citizen was in possession of a regular residence permit issued by the Italian authorities (Questura di Milano), as well as she keeps the status of long term resident.
– It is also very serious and in violation of the rules on movement within the Schengen Area in favour of foreign citizens in possession of long-term resident status, to require an entry visa nor is it possible to reject them at the border.”- declaration from my lawyer
Additionally, it is stated the police officers did not take all of my belongings including my phone. Well, they did take all of my personal belongings and my phone. There is proof, as well.
No more playing my word against yours game…

We have yet to hear one word of sympathy or condemnation from the Opéra de Paris. Let alone an apology from those music sites.


  • Ulrich Brass says:

    What has to do Opéra de Paris with this? Yende is singing La Sonnambula at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées that it is in Paris but has nothing to do with the Opéra National de Paris

  • Anon says:

    She is absolutely right. If she has the Italian residency permit, it is valid in all EU countries. Especially in times of Covid international travelers are very aware of the rules.

    I have a residency permit from another EU country which I have used to enter France twice. I was not questioned.

    • not exactly says:

      But an EU residence permit is different from a work permit. The residency permit she has posted online does not allow her to work in France in and of itself (she could only work in Italy, as this isn’t like a regular Schengen visa). Moreover, if the Italian residency permit was a temporary one, typically this guarantees travel only between the country of origin (ie what’s on your passport) and the country of residency (in this case, Italy). All told, the fuss is made over being held at the airport for three hours, while the French border guard sought to affirm her account with her employer AND issue her proper documentation, something the border patrol was under no obligation to do. I just don’t get the stir.

      • Anon says:

        A residence permit allows one to enter the country. That’s all she needed. Unlike the UK, they’re not evaluating whether or not you plan to work there. It’s immaterial in this situation.

        All residence & work permits are temporary in the EU! What do you expect, that they’re going to be granting them for the rest of your life? Hers was valid, and she proves that.

        I’ve been in her situation many many times and never once have I been held for 3 hours. It’s excessive and punitive. She is right, they are wrong. Period.

        • Stelucia says:

          The document presented was a work permit allowing her to work in Italy for three monts, not in France. She did not have a long term worK permit to be able to work in France, just a temporary one

          • Team Pretty says:

            According to the link you posted she didn’t need one!

            In your link, it says that someone with a Schengen area permit (Italy) only needs the long term permit in France when their stay exceeds 90 days, which was not her case. This is from the link you posted, translated:

            “We know that when you have a residence permit issued by a country in the Schengen area, you can travel safely to all member countries without having to apply for another entry visa and live there for a maximum of 90 days, that is 3 months. The same thing also applies to France, but if you want to exceed 90 days you need to apply for another type of visa from the French Government or to be in possession of an EC long-term residence permit issued by a country. member of the European Union, in this case it is Italy.”

          • Stelucia says:

            @ Team pretty
            You are confusing the right to travel with the right to work.The right to travel in France does not give to work in France. She did not have a residence permit just a temporary three-month Italian work permit. Such a permit cannot be used as a work visa in France. The text is clear: Secondo la legge attuale, per potersi stabilire in Francia, le persone residenti legalmente in Italia, in possesso d’un permesso di soggiorno o in attesa del suo rinnovo, devono richiedere un visto di lungo soggiorno presso il consolato di Francia. In short, with an Italian work permit she should have asked for a long term working visa at the French Consulte. She did not bother to go to the Consulte and ask for the right visa.

          • JB says:

            Foreign artists dont need work permit in France if they work there for less than three months. The only issue here is entering France from Italy, and if PY has a residence permit in Italy, she can travel to France. That’s what Schengen is all about.

          • PianistW says:

            But that only applies to EU citizens, who are to travel, take up residency, and work freely within the EU. As a permanent resident in an EU country she has the right to travel, but not to work. She is wrong and seems she is “playing the race discrimination card” instead accepting she did not prepare the trip properly.

          • JB says:

            Foreign artists have the right to work in France without work permit for less than 3 months, whatever their nationality: Décret no 2016-1461 du 28 octobre 2016.

          • Anon says:

            Word, JB! You said it!

  • Henry williams says:

    They let terrorists in. But good people like Yende
    They put in prison.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Yes, all according to plan?

      Obviously, the border police made a terrible gaffe, because of having been not alert enough in the past. France has, of all the European countries, the greatest problems with terrorism, so no wonder police gets very tense.

    • Kim Pham says:

      African politicians have created enormous problems for their indigenous peoples which is their justification for fleeing the continent seeking better, gentrified lands and opportunities. They are viciously turned away by Israel so they show up in Italy or the US.

      Yende followed this long-standing necessity in seeking a better life outside her homeland. Nothing there for her (or anyone else) except poverty and misogyny to this day.

      It would be wise to renounce her African passport as her Italian one is clearly best for the life she wants. She could seek citizenship in the USA as well where she could enjoy true freedom as my family has.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        “… viciously turned away by Israel…”

        What do you want Israel to do?

        • Giles DeLandis says:

          Open their border wall to them out of human compassion for their fellow man as God commands.

      • James Weiss says:

        Anti-Semites never miss an opportunity to rear their ugly heads even in threads where Israel is irrelevant.

      • JB says:

        “Nothing there for her (or anyone else) except poverty and misogyny to this day” – Well, she is an international opera star and should have enough to fill her fridge.

        • Yusuf says:

          That’s why she abandoned Africa, for a better life courtesy of white people’s money and white composers.

          African officials haven’t bothered to help her. How sad for her to be ignored by her own race. Well, there’s always BLM to.., to.. Alright, she’s abandoned by the gentrified blacks too.

  • HR says:

    With this information, will the people on this site who “chalk this up to hysteria” and “calculated attention seeking” be walking their comments back or even ask themselves why they rushed to judge PY?

    • Karl says:

      I said it was hysteria because she said she was the lucky one in a million who came out alive. She also lied about being strip searched. It’s possible that the border police made a mistake, but PY is definitely grossly exaggerating.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Racist right-wingers never do, they just “double down” (see Trump, Giuliani etc.) – lacking a moral conscience is emblematic of their breed.

  • MWnyc says:

    Well, folks, it seems Pretty Yende was not strip-searched.

    From yesterday’s New York Times report:

    “Yende took to social media to share her experience, saying she was “stripped and searched like a criminal offender” during the ordeal, which lasted more than two hours. While she was not asked to remove her clothes, she says, the police told her, without explanation, to take off her shoes and kept her in a cold, dark room. She suggested that she had been singled out because she is Black.”

  • mary says:

    I don’t know if NL is gullible or just belatedy jumping on the BLM bandwagon, but Ms Yende has proven to be a fabulist with her lie about being strip searched, so she (and and her lawyer) has zero credibility.

    France is such a horrible country, with it’s history of Apartheid and Blacks forced to live in shantytowns, and… Oh, oops, my bad.

  • Peter says:

    Well… if I were Pretty Y I would have shut up in the first place, because on her document there are (at least) 2 problems which are there for anyone to see:

    1. Place and date of issue is Milano, 21 June 2021 which is just about 3 days ago….
    So her papers were issued (in Milano) ONLY 3 days ago, but she has been performing in Paris since May (concert with Bernheim at TCE) and La sonnambula since June 15… well that’s a BIG problem and authorities should have been alert, which they were.
    Document expires in 90 days, which is also “Pretty” weird…

    2. There is clearly something put over her photo on the right and over most of the part on the left side, like something sticked over something else, which again is “Pretty” weird for an official document.

    So…. It has nothing to do with race and no one has to apologize for actual doing their jobs!

    Question is: why did the police let her in if her documents were either expired either not in order?

    Cheers to everyone

    • Clarissa says:

      The TCE called and the authorities agreed to issue a temporary visa. If there was a need for a temporary visa, then clearly the above document was not sufficient. Additionally, there’s every right to question the above document and asking questions, taking her phone, holding someone for two hours is STANDARD PROTOCOL for anyone entering ANY TERRITORY with questionable documents. None of this was racism. And this whole thing about being let out alive? Who’s ever died in an airport immigration room?

    • Stelucia says:

      She has hidden for privacy reasons her Codice Fiscale which is the Italian Tax number (the long white space). She also hid her DOB

      • Peter says:

        I am not referring to the white stripes that cover confidential details, of course – please look closely to the photo on the right and 3/4 of the photo and text on the left – it looks like a whole sticker has been put over an original document.
        So one option could be that this is all a fake document but she faked it bad as the issuing date is only June 21st and she has been working in Paris for a month now. Ridiculous!
        I hope that police will now move into a self-investigation because she is definitely a lier seeking for attention and playing the BLM card when it was not the case.
        All people are subject to an investigation by the police if there is a problem with any document, no matter race or religion – so they only did their job, while she has failed so badly in proving her very own mascarade!
        She should be ashamed of herself and I hope there is a new post on this website that will update the very troubling details on her document!

  • M McAlpine says:

    I must confess that people automatically jumping on a racist bandwagon just irritates me. There are people who have had similar problems at borders and are white. Say the police were heavy handed – maybe? Say they were racist? Not necessarily. They were maybe just doing their job.

  • Clarissa says:

    This document doesn’t actually grant her access into the French territory. And again: she was NOT strip searched. She was patted by a female employee. She was treated like ANYONE ELSE that has questionable documents: wait in a room for two hours without your phone while things get verified and have a little pat down/ remove tour shoes! This happens to THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE EVERY DAY of any skin tone or religion

    • Bill says:

      Maybe it shouldn’t. What benefit was obtained for anyone by doing this?

      • FrauGeigerin says:

        Attention. Space and time on media. Papers calling her a phenomenal artist (not that most journalist could tell a great artist from a mediocre one) victim of a terrible injustice. Her name sounding on blogs, news, social media (which would mean more and better engagements). People would do anything for it.

  • MacroV says:

    The “it wasn’t racism” mob doesn’t wait long to strike. You don’t need to get into a “Do you know who I am?” to handle all the ways this was done wrong, and sorry, I totally believe it is more likely to be done wrong to a non-White person.

    She has a passport that is probably bulging with visas and entry/exit stamps. They could Google her if they have any doubt about who she is and why she’s in France. Given the number of gigs she does in any number of places, maybe sometimes the paperwork isn’t precisely correct. In which case you say:

    “Excuse me, but there looks like there might be a problem with your paperwork. We’ll need a few minutes to sort it out. Please have a seat over there. Would you like some coffee?”

    You don’t take away her cellphone and other items. Indeed if there’s a paperwork problem, you GIVE her the phone so she can call her people to get it straightened out.

    At a minimum this seems stupid and incompetent, if not actually racist.

    Any why on Earth would she have reason to make a public complaint about it? You really think she needs this kind of attention?

  • JoshW says:

    She needs to be quiet and take legal action if indeed she actually has a case – and if a lawyer can get past her sensational lie about being strip searched. PS What in the world does the Opera de Paris have to apologize about? So many wrong facts in this posting.

  • sam says:

    Yende has gotten more coverage for her mendacious temper tantrum than all of her past opera performances put together.

    “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

    Enjoy your 15 minutes of infamy.

  • Le Křenek du jour says:

    Let’s see how the independent South African news site Daily Maverick, of Johannesburg, reports on the issue:

    The usual “she said — they said”, acknowledging that no incontrovertible evidence has been produced either way, then an AWOL notice of Ms. Yende’s management, which was not available for comment, finally emollient diplomacy from the French embassy in SA and a call for an inquiry from a SA government spokesperson. Which was called for from the beginning: a serious inquiry into the facts.
    No amount of social media hysterics can replace that.

    Facts matter, because lives matter.

  • Legal clarification says:

    Just to clarify why this document is invalid (and why she needs a new lawyer): under current COVID rules, free Schengen movement is closed. That’s to say that a resident permit from another Schengen country does NOT grant one access to another Schengen country – a Schengen PASSPORT does. Outside of COVID, this document is valid (and that’s why she’s been able to move freely in Europe before with it). But at the moment, it is not enough – hence the need for the expedited short term visa which the TCE helped her obtain.

    Again, it’s standard protocol. I know so many people that get stopped at airports and questioned for no reason whatsoever – I’ve known people to spend hours and hours in these rooms, indeed without their phones, subject to standard airport pat downs… It’s uncomfortable, and certainly a nuisance. But they’re not there to offer champagne and a head massage, either.

  • BigSir says:

    It seems being a black opera star is a quite privileged position. But not so pretty in the end, eh?

  • Roman says:

    There years ago I was detained on a Spain border by the police, because I traveled having only Latvian visa. Not all such cases mean racism, I am quite white. I wasn’t strip searched though, but it is probably because of my looks.

  • Peter says:

    PS: Pretty has done something else, she has edited her first facebook post and added “YESTERDAY IN PARIS” – so we should understand that the airport story happened to her on June 21st (the first day her Italian TEMPORARY permit was valid).

    But she was already in Paris as she had already performed La sonnambula at the TCE on June 15 and a concert there in May…

    Moreover, 3 weeks ago she has posted on her social media the following message: “I am safe. I have never been so scared in my life ever…” was it then that this unreal drama has happened to her? I am sure it was.
    She wants to put the story in her book (who would read it?!) so maybe it will be best she will be adviced to be quiet instead of lying!!!

    I wonder why slippeddisc does not comment on real facts: the most important one is that she was already performing in May and June (before the 21st) – first Sonnambula was on June 15 – without ANY valid document, so the police did the right thing to question her and probably the wrong thing to let her in!

    To all the Pretty team and to Pretty herself: “Pretty” shameful!

    It does not matter what race you are when police has real evidence that there might be a problem with your entry documents, and this was exactly the case!
    Sometimes it’s wiser to just shut up, not to show everybody what a moron you are and NOT play the race card to receive sympathy! What a disgrace!

  • Michael Lemieux says:

    Has the French police heard of Google?