Saturday Oct 12 2019

Lahore actress disappears in UK after claiming 'slavery'

Images of Lahore-based stage dancer and model Rabica Sahar featured in different Pakistani newspapers.

LONDON: A Pakistani stage dancer and model has disappeared in the United Kingdom after entering into the country on an entertainment visa reserved for performing artists.

Actress Rabica Sahar, based in Lahore but originally from Okara, came to the UK on September 8, 2019 for three months for dance performances at various entertainment venues across the country. She claimed asylum just five days after her arrival, citing "slavery" and "human trafficking" as the reason, a source confirmed.

It was her last day performing in London before moving onto her next show in Manchester when she dropped this bombshell on her fellow artists that she had decided to stay in the UK and will not go back to Pakistan.

This reporter understands that Rabica Sahar made this asylum request during an inspection raid conducted at the well-renowned London venue. Dozens of artists and visitors were present and nothing untoward was found by the immigration inspectors when they conducted the search.

Image shows Lahore-based model Rabica Sahar with other performers.

A showbiz source told this reporter that the police interviewed the artists from Pakistan and other countries besides checking each corner of the venue, including the residential rooms, but found nothing wrong. The police did not find any violations of immigration rules or terms of the entertainment license being abused, but the actress from Lahore told the immigration officers that she was being kept as a "slave" by the venue manager.

The other artists who travelled with her from Pakistan made no such claim and said they were happy at the venue and were performing on their final night.

According to a source, Rabica Sahar told one immigration officer that she thought she was being enslaved because her passport was with the club manager and it is on that basis that she left the venue escorted by the police, later on claiming asylum using the same reason.

However, several contradictions have emerged.

The club manager had kept Rabica's and the other artists' passports in a safe locker on the request of the artists for safekeeping. Other artists told the inspectors that the manager was keeping their passports on their own request.

Several pictures of the actress have emerged on social media, including her interviews in which she demonstrates that she is not being forced to visit or migrate by anyone but on her own free will.

Documents show her making an application for visa and confirming that she is going to the UK to perform. She posted videos and pictures from Muscat and London, expressing her joy to be in the UK.

An image of Lahore-based stage dancer and model Rabica Sahar.

Prior to her arrival, Rabica Sahar gave interviews to newspapers in Pakistan and confirmed that she was going to perform in various venues across the UK.

The actress told the immigration officer that she was being kept as a slave by another actress called Ravina, who also travelled with her to the UK at the same time.

Her husband rejected allegations and said in a statement to this reporter: "Ravina is my wife. She is 21 years old and Rabica is 35 years old. How can she claim that Ravina made her slave. Ravina was accompanied by Rabica but she has nothing to do with her claim of slavery. She insisted me to arrange her UK visa, which I did.

"The three girls arrived in the UK on September 8 and there were no performances scheduled until September 11. During the first three days, all three girls were visiting together and sightseeing. Rabica used references to me and begged for inclusion in the troupe for UK which I arranged."

The producer said that Rabica gave dancing tests and her videos were uploaded on Youtube.

"I don't know what happened to Rabica just in five days after landing in UK. I can't believe that a lady happy to all of us wandering here and there and also visiting in London sightseeing happily, but now she is claiming slavery. It is too strange for me."

He said that someone was trying to malign Pakistan through Rabica, and that this must be stopped.

Just a week prior to her travel, Rabica visited a government office in Lahore to apply for a protector certificate, which is required for overseas travel and ensures that the Pakistan government knows where a person is going to work and even what income they are going to earn. The certificate also requires the person to sign the statements, including affirming that they are going of their free will. A member of the family also has to attend the interview and sign the same document, confirming they are happy for that person to travel overseas. In this case Rabica's brother, Toqeer Hussain, signed the said statement on the family's behalf.

A Home Office spokesperson refused to comment when asked.