NEW YORK—In addition to the statement issued yesterday in response to PEN World Voices Festival participant Yassmin Abdel-Magied being turned away by US Immigration officials, PEN America Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel released the statement below: 

“We deeply regret that Yassmin Abdel-Magied was not able to enter the United States on her Australian passport​. We advise all international participants with whom we are in contact that the visa situation has become significantly more strict and that there are inconsistencies in the experience of writers trying to enter the country for conferences and events. We recommend to all participants that they obtain legal advice and follow applicable requirements in an effort to ensure that there are no issues. ​Many writers with whom we engage have traveled to the U.S. often and have longstanding experience in terms of securing their own visas.​ ​

The barriers for international writers and artists visiting the U.S. are growing, impairing the ability of PEN America and other organizations to foster cross border dialogues that are so essential at this time. ​​Individuals seeking to enter the U.S.​ in order to ​appear in​ a single cultural event ​should not be required to ​undergo a visa​ ​process​ that is ​unduly ​complex, slow, and expensive​. Such hurdles would​ make it virtually impossible to hold a gathering like the PEN World Voices Festival, the essence of which is to allow Americans to hear from writers from around the world. We are exploring a range of options in relation to the planned event with Ms. Abdel-Magied.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.


Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Coordinator: