Foreign actresses are denied entry to Belarus on political grounds
American actress and singer Stephanie Pan and Australian actress Esther Mugambi, who arrived in Minsk on invitation of the Belarusian Free Theatre, were detained at Minsk-2 airport on 2 October. Belarusian border guards said to the actresses they were on the list of banned to enter Belarus.
It is remarkable, that the actresses who arrived in Minsk from Amsterdam (via Prague), had never been to Belarus before. Officers of the Minsk airport didn’t tell them a reason for forbidding the country, referring to ‘secret information of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Belarus’.
Stephanie Pan and Esther Mugambi were to rehearse performances with the Belarusian Free Theatre in the frames of Eurepica project during a week. The actresses were going to leave Minsk after a week, on 12 October.
The border guards said to Stephanie Pan and Esther Mugambi the latter had to spent two days at the airport. They can fly back at their own expense, but they had tickets only for Minsk-Prague-Amsterdam flight, scheduled in two days.
The actresses were lodged in the airport in prison facility, the so-called detention rooms. Their liberty is restrained, they are locked. Even if they want to go to the toilet, they have to knock and ask to be guarded there. There are eight such rooms in the airport. Citizens of Bangladesh, Azerbaijan and Iraq live in the neighboring rooms.
Both actresses speak only English. Chiefs of the Free Theatre Mikalai Khalezin and Natallia Kaloada returned to Minsk, 30 kilometres from the airport, to buy food and water for the actresses, as cafes and bars were closed at the airport.
So, the situation resembles the one in Terminal film, this time in Belarusian manner.
‘It’s hard to suppose that the current authorities fear of foreign actresses. We are preparing a big European project Eurepica. The actresses bought tickets at their own cost and flew to Minsk to rehearse it with the Free Theatre. I don’t known why they were put in the list of prohibited entry. Maybe it is because they collaborate with the Free Theatre. There are no other grounds. We will inform the foreign theatrical circles about this event. We will warn them that collaboration with Belarusian theatres may be complicated with a ban to enter the country. I can’t understand what the authorities want to gain by these bans,’ Free Theatre’s chief Mikalai Khalezin commented on the incident to the Charter’97 press center.