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US immigration reportedly 'bars' Syrian cinematographer from travelling to the Oscars

The filmmaker said he had received a US visa but his passport wasn’t accepted.

Image: TRT World via YouTube

US IMMIGRATION AUTHORITIES are reported to have barred entry to a 21-year-old Syrian cinematographer who worked on a harrowing film about his nation’s civil war, The White Helmets, which has been nominated for an Academy Award.

According to internal Trump administration correspondence seen by The Associated Press, the Department of Homeland Security decided at the last minute to block Khaled Khateeb from travelling to Los Angeles for the Oscars.

However, in a tweet Khatib said that he had received a visa and won’t be travelling “due to intensity of work”.

After a raft of media reports on the reported bar, he then tweeted some hours later to say that he had a US visa and had spent three days at the airport – but he wasn’t allowed to travel as his passport was not accepted.

Khatib was scheduled to arrive today in Los Angeles on a Turkish Airlines flight departing from Istanbul. But his plans have been upended after US officials reported finding “derogatory information” regarding Khatib.

Derogatory information is a broad category that can include anything from terror connections to passport irregularities.

Asked for comment, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, Gillian Christensen, said, “A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”

Nomination

The White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix documentary, has been nominated for Best Documentary Short. If the film wins the Oscar, the award would go to director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara. Khatib is one of three people credited for cinematography; Franklin Dow is the film’s director of photography.

The film focuses on the rescue workers who risk their lives to save Syrians affected by civil war. Many of the group’s members have been killed by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air forces. The group also was nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The White Helmets includes emblematic scenes of the deadly six-year-old conflict: people digging through destroyed homes looking for survivors, at constant risk of “double tap” attacks that target first responders after they’ve arrived at the scene of a strike.

Khatib had been issued a visa to attend the ceremony with Hollywood’s biggest stars. But Turkish authorities detained him this week, according to the internal US government correspondence, and he suddenly needed a passport waiver from the United States to enter the country.

The correspondence indicated he would not receive such a waiver. There was no explanation in the correspondence for why Turkey detained Khatib.

Read: Syria’s heroes: the volunteers who run towards the bombing>

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Associated Press

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