April 17, 2018

PEN World Voices participant Yassmin Abdel-Magied has been deported


Yassmin Abdel-Magied. Via Twitter.

The PEN World Voices Festival, an annual, weeklong celebration of international literature, kicked off last night. But among the 165 voices invited to participate, one writer was notably absent.

According to John Maher writing at Publishers Weekly, the Sudanese-Australian writer and Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied was detained at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for allegedly trying to enter the country with the wrong visa. Abdel-Magied live tweeted her experience:

Abdel-Magied later released a full statement of the incident:

After Abdel-Magied’s deportation had caused an uproar on Twitter, representatives for Customs and Border Patrol a following statement that they had “determined this individual did not possess the appropriate visa to receive monetary compensation for the speaking engagements she had planned during her visit to the United States.” They added that she “is eligible to reapply for a visa for future visits.”

PEN America executive director Suzanne Nossel protested the decision, noting that Abdel-Magied was traveling on the same kind of visa she has used to enter the US in the past, and observing that “efforts at visa bans and tightened immigration restrictions threaten to choke off vital channels of dialogue that are protected under the First Amendment right to receive and impart information through in-person cultural exchange.” She continued: “We call on Customs and Border Patrol to admit her to the U.S. so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the Festival.”

A co-founder of the Australia-based Youth Without Borders, Abdel-Magied, twenty-seven, lives in London, where she works as a mechanical engineer. Her immigration memoir, Yassmin’s Story: Who Do You Think I Am?, was published by Penguin Random House Australia in 2016.



Michael Barron is an editor at Melville House.