Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Thought Picnic: Cowed by the Land of the Sacred Cow

Almost counting for nothing

Sometimes one forgets or fails to appreciate the privileges of being a European citizen and even worse still one of having a purely Western world heritage.

For as long as I know, I have been a European and that is by birth rather than by naturalisation, it has been my core identity to be English but of Nigerian heritage and I make no apologies for that.

However, in the last few weeks I have run the gauntlet of a bureaucratic morass of pedantry that will give the hierarchy of Sicherheitsdienst a run for their money.

The deal that draws

In terms of training, certain countries in Asia offer good value for money at up to 50% savings on similar courses in Europe. Intensive training that allows for courses to be bunched up, examinations to be taken with full-board included are a bargain not to be missed.

So plans were afoot to embark on one of those courses only to find that the hurdles for acquiring a visa were a requirements minefield.

On the part of the course provider, they suggested I get a Tourist Visa and then as if they had not done this before they sent me an invitation letter for the course. I first visited a visa franchise service and there I learnt I needed to get a document proving I was a resident of the Netherlands even though it was clear that my passport indicated it was issued in Amsterdam some 8 years ago.

A tourist on business training

I got all the pieces together with regards to the published checklist and headed for the main visa office with my arrival well before 9:00AM putting me fourth on the list. When as I was submitting my papers, I noticed an error, the system had automatically assumed my nationality and that of my parents were the same.

In any case, it was important to go through the interview process to ensure that on my next visit I will have all that was required.

As they checked my documents they concluded after consulting the manager that I needed to get a business visa, provide letters of invitation, the certificate of incorporation of my company and that of the training provider, declarations, bank statements and evidence of my long-term residence in the Netherlands.

All documents sorted

So, I first went to the library and had all the documents I could processed, then I called the training provider about my experience before sending them an email detailing what they needed to provide.

At the same time, I decided to call their representative in the BeNeLux and he quite helpfully gave me what supposedly was all the essential information to process my application.

Yesterday morning after my visit to the hospital I went to my local government office to obtain the proof of residence in the Netherlands, my arrival and departure did not last 30 minutes and I had the document required – all was set for filing my application this morning.

Not business but entry

Once again, I arrived to be the third in line and submitted my papers for review, the confusion between IT Business seminars in a training company and going for a period for some 19 days suddenly meant I could not be going for a business trip but rather I had to have an Entry visa.

Besides, even though my passport gives no indication of whom my parents are, the visa application requiring that information meant that my Nigerian progeny mattered despite the fact that I am wholly and entirely a British citizen.

My British passport will not suffice they said, I will have to fill in a special form as if I was Nigerian. I had the good mind of calling the British embassy to complain that a subject of the majestic Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was being treated as less so by an old colony of theirs.

Entry at the back of the queue

In any case, containing my exasperation, I returned to the library, updated my visa application, rewrote my supporting letter and had them printed out before returning to the visa office where I had to join the queue again from behind – I am hopeful that this whole thing will be resolved but I can most assuredly say that I have never felt so frustrated by a process that could be so easy if there was the will and the inclination for that.

Beyond that feeling, this is a country that broadcasts international adverts of its incredible tourist sites and wonders of nature, you will be drawn to visit and suddenly you are met with these hurdles like never leaving base camp when your plan is to scale the mountain.

Patience, I have, favour, I need and luck or better still all the goodwill and blessings to get through this and get it done but this experience could not go undocumented, there is no need to mention which country it is, it should be obvious already.

4 comments:

Codliveroil said...

Akin, I empathise with you.

The only black people, who have successfully gained recognition as belonging to a developed nation are African-Americans.

Like you I'm a British passport holder (and was born in England). I was suprised at my reception (at social events) by White Britons here in Australia, they are as skeptical and cynical as Australians, when you say you are British. One is subject to some sly questions that are meant to catch you out in your answer, as if one is lying. I fail to see the reason, why I would lie about such a matter.

I have come to realise, that being black and British outside of the UK, is not recognised.

I wish you luck with your quest.

Akin Akintayo said...

CodLiverOil,

Thanks, sorry, I do not have my blog send me notifications of posted comments.

Well, I have made issue about this matter and written to our embassy here in the Netherlands about it.

However, I hope they do not decide to run me through the gauntlet of unnecessary checks and just grant the visa.

I can understand the confusion of colour versus presumed nationality but the fact is some of us are just not aligned to the norm and I will not allow myself to be treated any less than who I am by reason of my birth, rights and citizenship.

I am glad you understand the situation I am portraying.

Regards,

Akin

Codliveroil said...

Akin
What do you think the British Embassy/consulate will do? Yes they can write a letter to the country concerned. The receiving party (say India for example), will file the letter away and it will be business as usual.

From my observations the Asia-Pacific region (the growth centre for the 21st century), is a place that black people are barely tolerated (except if you are an African-American). Papua New Guinea and other Melanesian states may be slightly more friendly.

I do agree, that a British passport is a British passport. The fact that you (or I) are not what many people in the world would instantly recognise as British, doesn't mean we are not entitled to the same rights as the majority of British passport holders. If that is the case, let them make it 'official'. Then we will all know where we stand.

Akin Akintayo said...

CodLiverOil,

Let's just say it is a gathering storm, I have started with my embassy here, then move to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, then the MP of the constituency where I was born.

The basic argument is the British passport is being treated as less the document that it is because of race and ancestry, elements that have already been validated by our Majesty's government before the passport was granted.

Now, if our representatives are not indignant about foreign agencies questioning the methods and processes the British use in their granting citizenships to those who qualify by all rights, then that will be interesting.

I think, it is an issue about how the case is presented rather than just the case itself.

Trust that I will publish my progress on this matter.

Thanks for your support.

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