Oxford

Ibrahim Keivo gets visa after Home Office reverses decision

Ibrahim Keivo Image copyright Ibrahim Keivo
Image caption Ibrahim Keivo plays "some of the oldest songs from Syrian folklore"

A renowned Syrian musician who was denied a UK visa for not having "special skills" has had the decision reversed after a campaign.

Ibrahim Keivo is on the Oxford Chamber Music Festival bill, but the government had barred him from entering the UK.

A petition calling for him to be able to play was signed by writer Philip Pullman and Queen guitarist Brian May.

Festival director Priya Mitchell said the U-turn, just a day before his concert, was "heart warming news".

She told supporters: "It is solely thanks to... the incredible solidarity and support shown in response to our petition."

More than 45,000 people had signed the petition calling for Mr Keivo to be able to perform.

Ms Mitchell said that in response to the application for a five-day visa, the Home Office previously claimed Mr Keivo, who plays Syrian and Bedouin music on a stringed instrument called an oud, had no "special skills".

An applicant's sponsors "must demonstrate that the role could not have been filled by someone already resident in the UK", the Home Office said previously.

Image copyright Ibrahim Keivo
Image caption Ibrahim Keivo was granted asylum in Germany two years ago

A refugee who was granted asylum in Germany, Mr Keivo is also due to participate in an educational programme for young people.

Before the decision Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East, tweeted: "Surprising to hear Home Office has argued a famous oud player lacks skills."

Ms Mitchell described his abilities as "very specialised" and added: "He is overjoyed to be coming to the festival and to play in Oxford.

"Ibrahim has said he would very much like to show his immense appreciation to [his supporters] through his music .

Mr Keivo will perform on Wednesday at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, Ms Mitchell said, and half-price tickets would be offered to all those who supported him.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Following further representations by Mr Keivo, his application was reviewed and his visa has been granted. Mr Keivo has been informed of this decision."

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