Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Another brick...

By Euclides Montes @gatulino

The tickets were booked, the walking boots broken into, the guide to hiking in the Himalayas already packed and the excitement of flying to the mythical-sounding Kathmandu was starting to permeate everything I did, from watching television to doing the washing up. Even the forerunner to this post, the one that you were supposed to be reading whilst my plane took me to Nepal was already written but then my partner called me to give me the news: “they won’t give you a visa”. Ouch.

The curse of being a dangerous, dodgy Colombian strikes again!

It had been a very long time since I had been in that position. After living in the UK for well over a decade and travelling all around the world relatively problem-free, my nationality has come once again to mess up my plans.

But were they right to deny my visa straight away? Just because my humble passport isn’t red like most British passports are?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the issues are more complex and complicated than the simplistic ‘will-they-won’t-they let me in’ that I describe above. Countries need to control their borders and sometimes it is important to ensure that certain procedures are in place to make immigration [even for tourism] manageable. But, surely, cases need to be looked at individually and all rules must have exceptions?

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I kind of understand why Colombians like me were flagged and, like most Colombians, I grinned and bear through the extra airport controls, both retaining the moral high ground [‘you distrust me but I’ll be Gandhi-like and bear it’] and knowing that they’d have to let you in in the end [‘because I’ve already jumped through all your hoops and I’m clean’!]. But do blanket restrictions like that really work? Or are they just counterproductive in the end? I mean what exactly led the Nepalese immigration officer on Friday to go into a frenzy of email activity that climaxed in the legendary [ok, legendary in my household] sentence “Dear ******, Foreigners cannot enter in Nepal.”. Since that’s obviously not true in the first place, is it really necessary?

Someone whose opinion means the world to me opines that in the big scheme of our lives, these things are insignificant. And I agree. 100%. This reminds me of the words of John Berger on endurance “Meanwhile, the answers abound in the multitudes’ multiple ingenuities for getting by, their refusal of frontiers, their search for holes in the walls… their recurring acknowledgement that life’s gifts are small and priceless. Trace with a finger tonight her (his) hairline before sleep” (from ‘Ten Dispatches About Endurance’).

And, on that note, I come back to my original ponder: Were they right to deny me entry to their country based simply on the basis of the place I was born? By doing that, we are closing the door on something that could’ve been beneficial to everyone, not only in terms of the experience, but also in terms of how we could grow together perhaps as a global community. Now we will never know. What’s the point of building so many walls around each other?


  1. Forgive me for smiling/laughing at the opener to this piece (because I knew what the punch line would be before it came) So I read it with a touch of humour. On the more 'serious' point. Its ultimately, is it not? the problems of past and current major cocaine cartels that still give innocent columbian's a hard time with all things, visa?. I guess therefore to change it the Columbian government need to make a massive effort to clean up the drugs trade and open up better lines of communication with other governments. Ie as to who's the drugs trafficking criminal, and who is innocent ie 99% of the population. Until that political/cultural image is cleaned and cleared up - I fear there will be a few more years of both minor and major, visa frustrations for perfectly law abiding Columbian's as you.


  2. Come the revolution, when Europe finds itself facing catastrophic global freezing and is shivering in its wellies, they will all run over begging for a Visa to live in Colombia, and what will their home office say?...

    Until that moment I wish you luck with getting a holiday!

  3. Guilty for being a free-speaking Colombian. Shame on the US State Department!