US & Canada

UK refuses to grant visas to Iroquois lacrosse team

The Iroquois lacrosse team
Image caption The Iroquois team is ranked fourth in the world

The UK has said it will refuse to allow a Native American lacrosse team to travel to the country using passports issued by the Iroquois Confederacy.

Officials told the team they would be granted a visa at immigration only with documents considered valid by the UK, including US or Canadian passports.

The announcement came after the US cleared them to travel at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The team says using other passports would be an attack on their identity.

The Iroquois Confederacy of six Indian nations oversees tribal land that stretches from upstate New York into the Canadian province of Ontario.

The UK's decision not to accept the confederacy's travel documents came a day before the opening day at the Lacrosse World Championships in Manchester, during which the Iroquois team were due to play England.

Only hours earlier, team members born within US borders had been granted a "one-time-only waiver" by the state department at the request of Mrs Clinton allowing them to make the trip without US passports.

The team, which ranks fourth in the world in lacrosse, has always travelled on the confederacy's documents as an expression of their Iroquois identity, but US officials had said they do not meet new, stricter passports standards.

"There was flexibility there to grant this kind of one-time waiver given the unique circumstances of this particular trip," state department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

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Media captionAn example of the Iroquois passport

The Canadian-born players were also experiencing problems obtaining leave to travel from Ottawa when British officials spoke to the team.

Federation of International Lacrosse spokesman Ron Balls said in a statement on the championship website on Wednesday that the Iroquois team would forfeit their opening game if it did not arrive on time.

The Iroquois helped invent lacrosse, as early as 1,000 years ago.

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