Unfortunately, there is the tragic part of the Canadian visa story. And it's not all the trouble this refusal caused us, all the running around I had to do, the stress I suffered with a baby in my belly. It's the unfairness of the logic behind the refusal.
So what if a person doesn't have any assets? Economic racism is one of the worst of our times, it is taken so much for granted that it goes unnoticed. As if the position of the poor is not bad enough as it is, they need a discrimination. Only the rich, only the people with means are allowed to move around.
So what if someone's prospect of employment is low where s/he is residing. What is more “normal”, more natural than a person wanting to move to a place where her/his employment prospects will be higher? Isn't the “pursuit of happiness” one of the pillars of the Declaration of Independence of the U.S.A.? And isn't this a universal basic right? If it is not, why not?
And what has weak family ties got to do with anyone wanting to travel?
I'll tell you two real immigration stories. A family reunion was rejected by the UK immigration authorities on the grounds that the couple were close relatives, concluding that the marriage was fake in order to get residence in the country. Yet, the same UK authorities rejected another family reunion on the opposite grounds that the couple had no relation to each other! Because in Afghanistan/Pakistan it is customary to marry among relatives. Conclusion being that the marriage was a fake. I have no comments. I leave that up to you.
And finally... If you block people from travelling like this, how do you expect them to have a travel history?? There has to be a first in a person's history. You cannot deny them that first right. (And I wonder, what if a person has a long travel history in countries you don't like?... What about your travel history then? Does it work for you or against you?)
The Economist, in the September 12th issue, was arguing on behalf of immigrants saying that people see them as an economic burden but it is not so true. That somebody needs to pay for the retirement of the elderly and to provide for the services its citizens are not willing to do. “Migrants are net contributors to the public purse,” they wrote. Sorry but that is a very bad point of view! Seeing people as things to be used. Regarding them -just like slaves two hundreds years ago- not as human beings, with rigths to improve their life, but as pure workforce to be used to somebody else's end. Maybe the Economist cannot say openly what I am saying. I am aware, it is a huge risk to losing your prestige and followers. My opinions are unpopular. But I am convinced that they need to be expressed. The more people who express them, the better.
The only positive argument economists make for removal of visas on economic grounds is that if there is no blockage of movement, people may freely go back to their own countries or any other place to try their chances. But like this, once migrants make it to someplace, even if they are not satisfied with the conditions, they cannot go back. And no, I'm not talking about refugees wanting to move to a third country even after they've reached safety. That is only natural too. What I mean is not being able to give up something you have paid a dear price for. (Something you have invested all your belongings and even made debts to be repaied with hard work.) I bet it is like my experience at Bogazici University, the hardest, the most prestigious school to get into. People hear about a country, the high life standards there etc. they have high regards for it. They want to make it there. They personally may be disappointed once they make it. But it's very hard to accept it's not what you wanted and quit, as I did. It is just the same with investing all you had – and more – to emigrate to a country you don't feel staying once there. You cannot accept this and go back when so many people are looking up to you, because you are living there. They envy you, they want to be in your position. Most people do not do what I did. You do not give up something valued by society in general. It is hard taking in the criticism, enduring the social pressure.
Why do I see the world as mad?
It's okay if you move from Samsun to Istanbul, but it's not okay if you move from Damascus to Istanbul. It's okay if the British move to Italy, to Australia, to Africa, to almost anywhere they wish, they may even do so as a whole country, but it's not okay if the Bangladeshi, the Senegalese move to Britain.
Fourteen years ago, when I was doing my first round-the-world tour with three Americans, they were so excited to find out that a Mc Donalds opened up in Addisababa. They literally ran there.
What is Mc Donalds doing in Africa? (Could it be “Money”? Could it be that an economic giant wanting to “Improve its economic prospects” that is already high?... Does this sound familiar?) And talk about invasion of cultures! If Mc Donalds is there, why shouldn't anybody be anywhere?
The fact that Aylan's family was trying to immigrate to Canada in the first place makes me relate to the incident in a different way as well. I was refused a visa to Canada in July 2011. The first and only time I was refused a visa in my life.
I was 5.5 months pregnant at the time. We had made all plans to visit Alaska a couple of months in advance and paid all our dues. The ship was leaving from Vancouver. We only were to stay three nights there.
When I got the passport back in an envelope, I opened it up to check for how long they had given the visa. But hey... Where is the visa? I scroll through the passport once again. Nopes. Once again. Nopes. The passport is empty!
So I take out the papers inside. And I find a refusal letter!
Now, to keep the long story a bit shorter... On the form it said I was refused a visa for
1- Not having enough assets.
Well... I own a house in Italy. And I have other assets that I do not see the point of listing here. I had two credit cards which showed expenditures of about 2,500 Euros for the last three months at the time and they had been paid in full just as they had always been for the last 18-20 years, i.e. since I first started using a credit card. The limits were high, which I could have set higher had I wanted to.
There was nothing on the ten page form they asked us to fill in for the visa application. They don't ask for your assets. BUT, they refuse you for not having them. I mean I know it's standart procedure, I always did that when applying for visas in Turkey. But now I was applying from Italy and as I said, nowhere on the application did it mention such a thing. So I saw no reason for proving my financial status.
2- Having limited employment prospects in the country of residence.
Yes, the consul was perfectly right in claiming I have limited employment prospects in my country of residence. I am sorry that some people have to be employed and go to jobs that they do or do not like but I do not need to be employed. Writing is an occupation that you can do in any place in the world and I can sell in my own country.
Besides... Why did I need to be employed? What if I were a simple housewife?? Did the fact that I was not working, not making any money imply that I could not travel any place with my husband??
3- Having weak family ties.
It's true that my born-in family ties are not so strong and I would have liked to cut those ties if I could. However, my tie with my husband was and is pretty strong and I can never think of being without him. Maybe one day I'll grow tired of him, maybe "Love will be finished" as some say. But that day seems far for now. I love him deeply... From the abyss of my heart.
Other than him and my daughter now, I have weak ties with anything in the world. The consul may see his country as an exquisite place. And even though Canada is selected to be the best country to live in the world, if I was to live some place else I would go to South America or Africa. The only reason I am staying in Italy is that my husband has a life here, has been employed here for the last thirty years.
I saved the best for last.
4- I was refused a visa because of my travel history!
I could not help but ask "Sorry but what do you know about my travel history??" There was nothing on the forms asking for my travels. If they were interested in a person's travel history to “grant” a visa and considered it as a criteria, they should have put that on the forms besides asking for the name, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, address and occupation of my half brothers and sisters AND step brothers and sisters. It took me a minute to figure out what they meant by that. Half-siblings are those you share a common parent with, step-siblings are the children of the spouse of one of your parents from a previous marriage. I have filled in so many visa application forms in my life and in none do I remember any country asking me all those!
Now, I have not spoken to my father for I don't know how many years. He is married and I know the woman has two daughters and a son. I know the name of the daughters, but nothing else about them. And I don't know even the name of the son! What did I do? I of course did not fill it in. Left it blank as if I did not have any step-siblings. But I signed the form saying that all the information I gave was correct and I would be liable if found out it was not.
To be fair to the consul, my passport was empty. But the fact that I have an empty, a blank passport does not mean that I have never travelled anywhere, it only means that I have a brand new passport! I would have expected a consul to know that much! I have five old passports including visas for countries like England, Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada. I have a valid US visa until August 2018. I have done two round-the-world tours. And when I mean round-the-world, I mean literally I have gone around the world twice. Once west by land and air, second east by land and sea. I have been to around 100 countries.
What's more, as I know the visa procedures so well, I had sent all my old passports with my husband for the application. And he came back saying the girl pushed them back through the counter saying they did not want it.
The travel history also connects to assets. You bet I travelled cheap. But you must accept that you don't get to travel that much without any funds.
Plus, I am married to an Italian. Had it not been for the Italian bureaucracy I would have already got citizenship, I was entitled to it. In any case, I was going to get it in a year's time and would not be needing any visa to go to Canada after that anyway. So there was no reason for me to try to sneak into their precious country right then illegally.
At the Canadian Embassy in Rome, I also met a Mexican girl who was going to Alaska and was refused on the grounds that she did not have sufficient funds. She was a young girl in her early twenties. Obviously from a rich family. As they were going to Alaska as a family and they were able to send their daughter to Italy for the summer. But she naturally did not have any money on her name in a bank. She was studying in Florence at the time and as she wouldn't have the time to apply later on had come to Rome only for the sake of getting the visa. All the other members of her family had got a visa from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico. She was saying they were going to cancel the trip now that she was refused the visa. I don't know what they did in the end.
Now... Coming to the best ironical part of the story... My "loco" neighbor who does not speak even a word of English -I doubt she knows hello, yes or no. Well, I guess she can figure out the no as it is the same in Italian- could have just bought a ticket and flown to Canada if she had felt like it.
She talks of her plans to kill her husband when he says he will move out. Because he then will be cutting the money he contributes to the house expenses and she will not have the money to pay for the cats and dogs foods. I guess that explains you the amount of her assets.
As for her family ties... She has cheated on her husband early in their marriage. She claims he was a bad man. But she never left him as they had a son. She's been living with the man for 21 years and not talking to him. The husband addresses her as “Whore.” She used to cook for him but not anymore.
As for her employment prospects in Italy... I'd say they are much more limited than mine. As I at least have an education in engineering -and a high education at that,- have qualifications, and am capable of driving and moving around etc.
As for her travel history... She ventured about 200 kilometers from Velletri where she was born and still lives. They were going to Venice for their honeymoon. Halfway, she said they should return and buy a car with the money they were to spend. So that's what they did.
Again, let me repeat. This woman could have just bought a ticket and flown to Canada if she had felt like it. No need to bother for a visa at all.
Tell me... How does this make sense?
Don't say that Italians are rich, do not abuse their visa rights etc. What is my neighbor's merit?
Being born in a “privileged” spot in the world, being born from a womb that was born on a privileged spot in the world, or being born from a sperm that came from a man born in a privileged spot in the world. Doesn't this sound funny to you?!
And now, I have an Italian citizenship and I can fly to Canada along with many other countries without a visa. What is my merit?
I got myself a husband that was born on a privileged spot in the world. Ah let me not be unfair with myself either. I also did some stupid paperworks they ordered me to do and endured the Italian bureaucracy. Oh how blessed and holy I am now! At least holy enough for the Canadians to allow me in their countries without being hassled.
I believe this is against human rights. Denial of a visa. Or even the existence of the need for a visa to go, to move to some spot in the world. I am not going to tell you all the trouble this caused us, all the running around I had to do, the stress I suffered with a baby in my belly.
Of course I do not complain on my behalf given the extent of human rights violations go in this world... But I DO complain on behalf of whatever kind of migrant that is blocked to move around freely in this world.
My sensitivity to the plight of immigrants did not start with seeing the photos of Aylan. -I have had issue with borders and citizenship and visas for a long time now.- And its not going to end or be forgotten in a couple of days or a week. I personally have been very slightly affected by this discrimination. But even that was enough to shape my views on the order of this world radically. I have been nowhere near their conditions, but I can feel their desperation in my bones. I revolt at the injustice they are forced to face. I cried when I looked at that photo. And my eyes water every time I think about it, I can hardly hold myself from crying in public. I have a baby of the same age- I guess most people who have children felt the same. But I also lost a baby for no reason. So I feel a strange connection with that photo. Does Aylan's death has a reason more than Lavinia's? Okay, we know why he died. He drowned. But what for? Does it matter if we know the reason? I am tempted to feel its a good thing the mother died too. She didn't have to go through the hell of losing a child senselessly.
I see adds everywhere, they are not advertisements in the real sense. Such and such are helping refugees. Good that they are doing something of course. But there has to be something else, people should stop seeing themselves as helping angels saying “we should help them more, we can.” They should start questioning borders. They should question citizenship the way we know it. They should question visas. In short, they should question the status quo. They should start speaking up against these things.
And no, it's not only about refugees, it's about all migrants.
Soon they will be questioning if you have a legal right to exist in this world, asking you for your documents, if you have papers from God giving you the right to be born. I mean they would already have done it if God signed such papers. I'm sure they would have. If they could have applied to God they would have done so.
“It's not enough that you have the right papers to go out, we want to make sure you came here with the right papers,” they say.
At the passport control out, we naturally had our Turkish passports as Russia doesn't ask for a visa from Turkish citizens. The passport control officer asked for my visa. I said we didn't need a visa for Russia. I am funny sometimes. Of course he's not asking for that. What does he care about Russian visa? He's asking for my Italian visa. Checking if I entered his country legally. I said I had citizenship. Of course I needed to show an ID for that.
I don't know... Is it only me? I find it so ridiculous that there is a man at some point, stopping every person to check if they can go on their way. I understand it's a job for them but I can't help wondering if it ever occurs to them to question what purpose they are serving, what they are doing on this Earth!
I was seriously stressed lining up at the check-in. A doubt came over me, what if we actually needed a visa for Russia?! I mean I knew we didn't need it, I had checked it, but had I really checked it? I didn't remember doing that. It was a long time ago, and there had been so many little details to think about and look after in the last six months. I had not checked lately, what if they changed the regulations and we now needed a visa? It happens you know. They keep changing regulations. They are not like natural laws, man-made rules are capricous, depends on the person at the top, occupying some post. Good thing we don't have to worry about that when it comes to an object falling on the ground. We know that something will fall if we drop it. Not that we like the idea. We don't necessarily have to like the fact that our precious whatever gets broken. But there is so much solace in knowing that it will fall every time, that the rule doesn't change, we don't need to bother every time to see what will happen. There is solace in predictability. Well, quantum physics says it may happen, that an egg scrambled can become unbroken once again. But somebody has yet to see that happen.
What about the luggages? We weighed them at home but what if our scale is wrong and we have extra weight?
Well... That one is not much of a problem. It is only a matter of money. We pay the fee and be on our way. The visa problem is serious. Carlo has a visa. Russia asks for it from Italians. I ask him if he asked while applying about the Turkish being visa free. Of course he had not done that. My husband is not like me, questions do not come to him naturally, he doesn't know about getting information, double-checking. Anyway, if there is a problem, he can fly. We, with Lara stay behind. I wonder if the Russian Embassy has an expedite service? If we can apply for it on Monday, get it Tuesday and head to the airport to make it to the Trans-Siberian train before midnight?
What if we can't even start the trip after saying we'd be making it?
Okay, let's not rush ahead and come to scenarios before they tell us we cannot fly. Let's just wait to see if the woman at the counter says anything.
When so much depends on one thing, when all can come down like domino pieces, it's difficult not to stress. And this line doesn't seem to move!
Nothing happened. We made it.
Funny thing... I thought it would be easiest to pack Lara's bag. I was going to put all she had into the luggage, done. Ha ha ha! Turns out she had much more than I thought. When you go out to the market and find things for 50 cents or a euro, you tend to exaggerate apparently. We played put on-take off. Not to carry along things that were tiny for her. Luckily, she cooperated. I thought it would be harder to make her do all that. But I found an important point: You have to make sure you don't put on something she likes or may like a lot. Save those things for the last. When I put on a winter dress that was big for her at the time I bought it, she liked turning the skirt around and did not want to take it off. She said she was going to dance with it. She turned round and round, singing, making up songs.
After a while, I said “Okay, come here now.” She said she was not finished yet. I said “It's hot, that's for winter,” she said “I am cold.” It was at least 30 degrees. And of course, in winter, when it was so cold, she went around with a tank top saying she was hot. All for looks! She is such a girl. Takes after papa... the vanity.
Anyway... In the end I found myself face to face with a huge pile of clothes. They didn't seem much in the drawers. But once you take them out... Well... I don't want to think how much stuff I have in my drawers at the moment! Trouble is... Once I was so easy on giving things away, now I tend to be a keeper. (I cannot especially give away things belonging to Lara.) Is this what they say “those who sleep with dogs will rise with fleas”? But why didn't my husband wake up with the fleas? Why was I to be the one turning into him?
I met him when I was down to the basics. Then Carlo started saying “Ah, this is nice. Ah this is nice,” whenever we saw something. Okay, you are married to an Italian, the mother a tailor, they are interested in fashion. I said okay to buying just to satisfy my wonderful husband. Then it got of control. As it usually does. I found myself with a dozen jackets of all kinds. Whereas beforehand I had two: One for winter, another for mid-season. So I started saying back to him, “There are so many nice things in the world, you cannot accumulate them all. If you do not need something, you only buy when you say 'Ah, that's so wonderful, I cannot live without it.'”
I know... It's not only because of my husband. I live a solitary life here. Away from everybody, away from the city. Away from the maddening crowd... I was stuck in the house for almost three years, I didn't change my clothes day or night for a year and a half. I deemed myself happy if I could wash after a week and put on a fresh outfit. The sleepless nights did not end. Then, slowly, I started coming to my senses. This summer, when I could go out with my daughter on my own and I had the car as Carlo got the bike, I started going out to the market every week. For an outing. To see people. Started going out means started buying. They were so cheap, it was just a cup of coffee, less than half a liter of milk. By the way, I never used artificial milk or baby food or a bottle for Lara. Nursed for 38 months. So I could splurge. And they were so cuuute! Those colorful dresses, shirts, skirts. I was jealous and often wondered why they don't produce those lovely stuff for grown-ups. It's a very good business idea. Whoever gets it from me, would s/he pay me a royalty please? Just a bit is fine.
Living with someone who mirrors you in any way (but who you see completely upside-down compared to you), is sometimes hard but often fun and enriching.
Travelling with such a person can be a real proof of your love and commitment. How would you arrange your shoes if you think of taking a picture? Of course there are at least "two" ways of doing it, but you can be sure that yours is not the right one!