Passport, please

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Attention: this is going to be an angry, political blogpost. So, if you just had your first cup of coffee, and are happily smiling at your partner or flatmate who’s preparing eggs, a second coffee or just smoking a cigarette and stealing your newspaper (depending on your partner or flatmate), if you decide that you don’t want your morning energy and your happy thoughts to be spoiled, I recommend you not to read it, because it will make you angry at the world…

Why? How could this day ever become so negative to me? Well first of all, during the last days I have been thinking, reading, worrying and twittering about the incidents (no, you probably should not give it a name that sounds so harmless and innocent), about the fights and clashes in Egypt, another country I immediately fell in love with when I visited my flatmate there a year ago who taught me a lot about the situation there. Because of that, I just could not get my head clear for translating “municipal service systems” in Kyrgyzstan (I’m sorry KG – I know this is important too). So at that point I want to send solidarity to Egypt and just hope that things are going to turn out in an unexpected good way!

Anyway, since my day had already started in a depressed manner, I now know that it could get even worse. Something happened that I would not have reckoned to be possible.

A Kyrgyz friend was denied access to the USA. Does not sound spectacularly insane to you? Then I should explain it more in detail: he already had his documents ready for a long time and had dreamt of this opportunity to study, live and work there for even longer. He had already been to the States and his English is perfect with the most authentic American accent you could think of. He had received the acceptance and the necessary documents of his university. He already knew which flight to book and didn’t really talk about anything else during the last days. He was perfectly prepared, he had the strict plan to come back to Kyrgyzstan after three years and use whatever he would bring out of the USA (some education, some money, some connections) for the best of his country.

So how could he get a denial? You ask.

And that’s where the anger at the world comes in. As he told me, he had already applied to a German student’s program before and was turned down immediately on the grounds that they “don’t accept applications from this country”. What is that supposed to mean? In this case, I actually don’t think this can be based on any legal ground since we are all too proud about our Human Rights of free movement and anti-discrimination.

In the current case of the US denying education to a Central Asian citizen, I looked the legal background up. It says that citizens can be denied a nonimmigrant visa if they:

“Did not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, required by law, by sufficiently demonstrating that you have strong ties to your home country that will compel you to leave the United States at the end of your temporary stay”.

And there we go again: assuming that most visitors from a certain type of countries would want to stay in the glorious “first world country” USA where they have a lower literacy rate and higher youth unemployment than in Kyrgyzstan (and this is confirmed by the AMERICAN website of CIA World Factbook) makes me outraged. Yes well, there are certainly examples that will stay in the US if you let them in. But, let’s be honest, who of us, around 25 year-old children of globalization can guarantee “strong ties” in form of several new-born children, a house, lots of money invested in the local economy or even lovers who would not be as flexible as you are yourself to move around etc? I know noone. Instead, I know many couples where one part is traveling for a year in Australia while the other is working somewhere in Latin America. And why is this possible for us?
Kopie PassadlerJust because of the shape and the color of our passports, that until now, made me pass every single check without even being asked one question (although I did not even choose the easiest countries to travel – post-soviets do have more restrictions than for example Middle East or as far as I know Southern American countries) – just because of the letters on top of that passport that say: “Europäische Union” people assume I would not like to live anywhere else than in my home country; they assume that if I would, I would be a nice asset to the country and boost its economy or at least do some social work. For other persons on the other hand it is constantly assumed that they want to profit from (by the way which?) social systems, opportunities to make money or even want to commit crimes in the country they are going to.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating: I have talked to many people (not only in Kyrgyzstan) who want to leave their country forever because they don’t see any opportunities there, but I also met many people saying that yes, they would like to visit Europe, but would not like to stay there forever because they love their country. In my opinion rather than securing their borders with all efforts, and tighten up immigration laws to eliminate people’s attempts to go to a country where they hope to find a better place to live, the international community should focus on improving conditions in the countries that people don’t want to live in – for example making them less dependent, diminishing their dept burdens, improving trade conditions etc.
You could say that there is already lots of money coming to countries of the Global South, and I don’t want to argue about what “development” actually means in one single post because it would and does already fill millions of books. But, at the preparation seminars I took before leaving Germany we learned that it is all about “exchange” of cultural, economic and political knowledge, exchange of ways of life to better understand other lifestyles and be able to question your own.

To me this sounds more than beautiful, but how is that ever supposed to happen if people like you and me, who want to achieve something, who want to change something or who – yes, that is legitimate too, – just want to develop themselves and gather experience by traveling, getting to know other people and broaden their horizon, how can exchange and a just globalization be brought about, if those people are not allowed to do so? Central Asia is certainly not the most discriminated place – most of my friends here have already traveled a lot, and already been to Europe or the US, Thailand and Dubai, etc. On the other hand that was one reason why we were all so shocked about the denial: no matter how hidden it is, you can still feel the discrimination and imperial arrogance that is committed by the West.

And sometimes when I walk through a check-in in a random airport and no one even looks twice at my papers while the woman behind me is bombarded with questions, then I feel ashamed for the “leading nation” I was accidently born in.

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