Investigation requested into alleged ill-treatment of Pretty Yende at Paris airport

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South African soprano Pretty Yende. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)
South African soprano Pretty Yende. (Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)
  • The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has requested a thorough investigation into the alleged ill-treatment of Pretty Yende at Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday. 
  • Yende on Tuesday accused French customs agents of treating her with "outrageous racial discrimination", which left the South African opera singer "traumatised" after being "stripped and searched like a criminal offender".
  • Claims of ill-treatment have strongly been contested by French police and airport sources.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is "seeking an explanation and requesting a thorough investigation" into the alleged ill-treatment of South African opera star Pretty Yende.

Yende on Tuesday accused French customs agents of treating her with "outrageous racial discrimination" at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport on Monday. 

The 36-year-old informed the South African embassy in Paris that the police verbally abused her, and her rights and dignity were violated during the ordeal. A claim strongly contested by police and airport sources.

Responding to claims of racial discrimination and that she was "stripped and searched like a criminal offender," an airport source said: "At no moment were there any incidents," adding that Yende had not been asked to remove her clothes.

"She was released an hour and a half later with a visa allowing her to enter French territory," a source said, adding that Yende was held for "verification" purposes that had nothing to do with the colour of her skin.

The unfortunate incident took place during Yende's return to Paris to perform at the Theatre Des Champs-Elysees.

"The South African Embassy in Paris has written to French authorities seeking an explanation and requesting a thorough investigation into the matter. This is after Ms Yende was detained by French Police at the airport for almost three hours based on an allegation that her Italian residence permit was not valid," said a statement released by DIRCO. 

The statement addressed allegations that the singer "had arrived from Milan on a South African passport without a visa," saying: "Her Long-term EU resident status, issued on 02/16/2015 by the Police Headquarters in Milan and with unlimited validity is provided by article 9 of the Consolidated Immigration Act (Legislative Decree 286/98) and regularly issued in accordance with European Directive 2003/109/EC, implemented by Italy and France and containing the common guidelines for the issuance of such residence permits with unlimited validity."

Further to the correspondence by the South African Embassy in Paris, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation will demarche the French Ambassador to South Africa, based in Pretoria, to convey its displeasure at the treatment of Yende.

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