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Afghan Youth Orchestra who fled Taliban to tour UK after Home Office U-turn on visa refusal

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The Afghan Youth Orchestra (AYO) will be allowed to perform in the UK after the Home Office was forced to U-turn on its decision to deny the group entry visas.

The AYO was due to perform at the Southbank Centre in London on Thursday as part of its Breaking the Silence tour before performing in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, and had expressed its “profound disappointment” over the visa refusal.

The group – an ensemble of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) – had called on the government department to reconsider its decision in a statement on ANIM’s website.

“The visa refusal not only dealt a significant blow to the young musicians’ aspirations but also deprived these young musicians an opportunity to raise awareness through music about the gender apartheid against Afghan women and denial of cultural rights of the Afghan people by the Taliban,” the statement read.

Members of the Afghan Youth Orchestra
Pic: PA
Image:
Pic: PA

The group fled Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country.

Its musicians have lived and studied in Portugal, where they were granted asylum, since December 2021, and the orchestra has toured in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Tajikistan in recent months.

Diana Johnson, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, celebrated the “excellent news” in a post on X.

It is understood the Southbank Centre performance will be rearranged, with relevant organisations looking at a possible date next week.

It is understood the Home Office is working with organisers to ensure the appropriate consent is obtained for the minors to travel.

Read more:
Two men publicly executed in killing ordered by Taliban

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Musicians and performers are a valued and important part of UK culture.

“Applications have to be considered on their individual merits in accordance with the immigration rules with the responsibility on applicants to demonstrate they meet these rules.”

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dwnews

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