opera star detained at Paris airport accuses immigration of racial discrimination

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opera star detained at Paris airport accuses immigration of racial discrimination


South African opera star Pretty Yende has accused French immigration authorities of “outrageous racial discrimination” after she was detained, strip searched and detained in a dark room at Paris’ main airport.

“Police brutality is real to someone who looks like me,” Yende, who is black, said in a social media post on Tuesday, a day after the meeting at Charles de Gaulle airport.

Yende, an acclaimed soprano, arrived this week to perform her lead role in La Sonnambula, at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. She flew to the city on Monday where, she said, she was subjected to “scandalous racial abuse and discrimination, psychological torture and very offensive racial comments.”

Yende, who was performing on Tuesday night, and her agent could not be immediately reached by The Associated Press for comment.

In her Facebook and Instagram posts, Yende said airport police confiscated her property, including her cell phone, and took her to a “holding cell” at the airport. “I was stripped and searched like a delinquent,” Yende said. She was then left alone in a dark room and told to write down the phone numbers of her family and friends on a piece of paper. “It was cold in there, there was no light at the start. “

She told an officer that her phone’s battery was dying and asked if she could borrow a charger. The officer, she said, told her, “Listen to me, you won’t have your phone. She described his tone as harsh and condescending. “I asked, am I a prisoner? He roughly said yes, and I decided to comply and do as they say.

The experience was traumatic and frightening, Yende wrote. “I was filled with so many negative thoughts. I am still shaken by the thought that I am one in a million who made it out of this situation alive. “

A French official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, said Yende was questioned by police because she held a South African passport and did not have no French visa to enter the country.

“The documents she was showing did not allow her to enter French territory,” the official said. He said she arrived in Paris on Monday and was questioned from around 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. before being released. After a verification process, she “received a visa regularizing her situation”. She thanked the police when they were allowed to leave, he added.

The official said it was normal to strip search a detained person because of inappropriate documents. “This is the usual procedure, there is a pat-down inspection and a search for safety reasons. “

In a follow-up post, Yende thanked fans and fellow singers for a wave of support and outrage on social media. She said she had not been “brutally interrogated and physically tortured like many”, but she felt grateful to be alive.

Yende is expected to sing the lead role in La Traviata at the Vienna State Opera in September, and has engagements with the Philadelphia Orchestra in October and the Washington State Opera in November. She has performed frequently at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and elsewhere.

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