Straight to the Point

 If it was just me experiencing this, I would maybe not even talk about it since I'll consider it an exception but it strangely happened with many people complaining about the same thing and you might have experienced it as well.

We are 15 bloggers for CIVICUS, who have been granted full bursaries to attend the World Assembly in Canada. Some of us had their visas either rejected once and twice or not issued on time because of long and annoying procedures. I will talk in my name and take full responsibility of my words but I will meanwhile quote from my fellow bloggers.

Prabin Rokaya, a young activist from Nepal, had his visa rejected twice."They told me I can't even appeal!! I had to reapply and again the same reasons were given", he said. Three main reasons have been claimed by the Canadian Consulate in Nepal that I will cite then you decide if they were fair enough. First, they mentioned his strong ties in Canada though he doesn't have any friends or relatives in Canada and his family live in Nepal. Second, his financial status was a threat of a possible illegal stay in Montreal though he has $10000 in his personal account, which is "very high compare to other youths of my age", as he explains. Finally, they gave him another reason for his appeal which is his travel history though he had already traveled to five countries including the UK, which as far as I know classified as a first country."They said that they are not satisfied that I may return! I just don't understand why!?.. I have traveled number of countries already and in fact from October I am going to Netherlands for advanced education and I had even the residence visa!"

Kisiria muhammed is a Ugandan activist and founder of Action for Fundamental Change and Development- AFFCAD, who had faced the same visa rejection with almost the same reasons. I cannot forget the statement of pride of Kisiria when he said" I have always told the world that Uganda is the Pearl of Africa, the land of beauty, peace and freedom...I am proud of being Ugandan and I love changing my own people's lives". Why such lover of his beloved country would like to stay in Canada after a 7-day conference?. Kisiria had his visa application rejected twice too. First in Uganda, he has been given the reason of no travel history though he has already traveled to six countries. "If I may ask, how will we get travel history when our travel opportunities are rejected??", he added. An additional reason was his insufficient financial documentation to support his host's income and assets, though he included the CIVICUS documents of full sponsorship for his stay. "Maybe they thought I am going for shopping in Montreal?", he joked. Kisiria had to go all the way to Kenya for the appeal and again rejected. Still, so passionate about his youth work beyond the borders, he says: "Life is so unfair, even the simplest things become the hardest...born in Bwaise slums...always for Bwaise slums...I am happy to be back to my country Uganda "the Pearl of Africa"...But SO UN-happy to miss the CIVICUS Youth Assembly".

Imran Khan from Pakistan had a very interesting reason for visa rejection : "They told me that you are young and we assume that you will not return... I told them that there is no signal point to stay there... I am a youth activist... I am going to USA, Malaysia and other countries and I have my job here". The only reason for Imran to travel to Canada is because he thinks that :"Travel is the only thing which makes you richer in knowledge".

The three activists who were excited about the conference in Montreal had expressed a sentiment of disrespect and injustice they felt. "I don't understand why they treat developing countries youths in such a way.. I can understand that many people might have illegally overstayed but they should be able to distinguish the true persons and act in more fair way", expressed Prabin with a lot of frustration. "I really see that we are very vulnerable specially young people from third-world countries in particular are at greater risk of rejection, when ever they apply for visa to visit developed countries. So, I feel that we must start a campaign to treat us as humans and treat us with dignity and respect", Imran pointed out.

Our friends who had made it to Montreal were very supportive and expressed their discontent because we were all excited to finally meet in September. Pauline Wanja, co-founder of a grassroot movement in Kenya to break the poverty cycle,  reacted: "not having ties(personal assets) to Kenya that would ensure my return after the assembly...its my country that is tie enough!!!". She added:"social mobility and the exposure is key as young people in developing countries work to change the realities of their countries and the visa rejection is unjust, we just want to go learn, network and come back and work in our countries to work". Victoria Melhado, a registered nurse and activist based in Jamaica, agreed with what Imran had mentioned by adding "Traveling makes us more rounded and tolerant person and able to see the world from different perspectives and appreciate 'varieties' in culture, food, language, religion etc. instead of viewing the world from a box".

I am trying to put myself in your shoes to understand the reasons behind all that. You think that we are traveling around for hanging out, taking pictures or shopping. I've traveled many times and sometimes don't see from the visited country but the hotel, the roads and buildings from the taxi's window going from the airport to the conference room!However, I think it is pretty good for your economy! or maybe because you think that we come to your countries to look for jobs but you invite us when you suffer from economic crises to boost your economies than you kick us out when we're considered threatening your culture or competing with your citizens, right?

I hope these testimonies from those young activists have shown you a little of our pride of where we belong and our determination to advance our communities.You should be aware that we carry out our flags and t-shirts with our countries' names whenever we go." One's country of birth always has that irreplaceable sentiment in one's soul", Victoria beautifully describes, "I Love traveling, but there's no place in the world as beautiful and exciting as Jamaica, my sunshine". Most of our traveling is actually for bringing change, investment, skills and development to our communities but you are not contributing to what you claim as intercultural dialogue by making the visas more expensive and the procedures more complicated everyday. 

I may say it in the chat box or on the phone telling my friends how I feel about it but I would like also to publicly express it; this bureaucracy just made me want to have my passport back instead of being deprived from traveling for 1 to 3 months because of a visa to Canada. I was planning to visit Canada while I am in the US but I may reconsider my plans after this experience. Is that the ultimate goal? so goal achieved!

Dear third world citizens, if you plan to go to Canada apply at least 3 months ahead of your travel plan. This is my advice to you until Canada's bureaucracy shows some improvements and respect to what they might call "underdeveloped countries citizens","uncivilized", and "the South". Maybe if they change these identifications, they might change their treatment and therefore reconsider their visas procedures or at least treat non-Canadians as human beings.

I have nothing against Canada - it's a beautiful country and Montreal is one the beautiful cities of the world- so I would like to take this issue globally to express my discontentment of these states calling themselves first World. You are widening the boundaries between us by identifying us from where we belong. I read once that people have been gathered and agreed to write that : "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state and Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country". It is another imaginary article of the UDHR because if it was guaranteed, Palestinians would have come back home, Kashmiris wouldn't seek an Indian passport and Kisiria, Imran and Prabin would have been to Montreal.

I declare I am the citizen of the WORLD.


Comments

Anonymous said…
This was a loose-loose situation because Canadian youth missed out on learning and sharing with you and the other bursary recipients. What does Canada have to fear from granting visas those who have proven their commitment to making a better world with their projects and talent? What we have more to fear is what we are loosing out on by denying these young persons opportunities that they earned to attend the World Assembly.

Canada can’t look to youth to be social innovators and entrepreneurs if they don’t support these exchanges more equitably. In places and spaces where their rights are not guaranteed, youth forge ahead to make connections and look at alternatives to build a more just society; let’s not put up even more barriers than they already face. I want to learn more on how to better support sponsored students for these exchanges. It’s an investment in poverty reduction, peace building and social justice for all. Are these not Canadian values?
Anonymous said…
Excellent Article my dear Chebbi :-)These injustices reveal the hypocrisy of 'civilized' countries in levelling the playing field for All Citizen's of the world! Their Greed make them always want to be the 'only first class citizens' in the world and everyone else their slaves! They are the Terroists and Oppressors and whatever their fears are -- it's because they know the atrocities they dish out to other people everyday; Be encouraged my friend-- one for all and all for one :-)
Rose said…
I have told people time and time again that Kenya is my one and only true love. That amidst all her troubles..her joy and her love for her people...I would give my life for this country.So I understand what it feels like being denied a visa to another country simply because they fear you may never return. Why would I want anything else but the African..the Kenyan dream? why??...let me flip this over..I have had to go to the French embassy to get a visa for Senegal. And this disturbs me because I wonder why I have to go to a former coloniser of a particular African Country to get a visa to that country. This situation needs to change. Alot of young people are being denied opportunities to travel and interact with other young people for mutual development and for what? for fear that they will not return home? We no longer live in the days when Africa was the avoided continent. We now live in an era where young Africans are giving their all for Africa. So travel barriers in terms of visa should not stand in the way of their travelling to Europe or to America.
Konda Delphine said…
I am sad and I know you are. Visa issues relating to Africans and other developing countries is becoming an issue for concern. But what exactly is the problem? who is to be blamed? It is very easy to blame European and American embassies and call them racist and ignorant. Dont get me wrong, I have gone through hell in the hands of European embassies and bureaucracy. For me being infront of an embassy is very annoying because of the sort of questions that you are asked...are you going to come back to your country if you are giving this visa ? can you show proof of ties that will bring you back to your country?as if my nationality, family, friends, memories not is enough

But lets get to the root of my anger. What will Africans for instance say when they receive this same treatment in other African Countries? in other less developed countries? who do you blame then? For instance a country like Indonesia refusing to give me a visa despite fulfilling all the requirements. What will you say they are scared of? that I will not come back to Cameroon? Will you call them racist and discriminatory? I will really need some one to answer that because I have not been able to answer it for myself. The funny thing is that Indonesians face the same treatment when going to Europe or Africa.


I took this is picture in 2011 coz it represents the world
I stopped complaining about visa and travelling issues when at the Leopold Sedar Senghor airport in Dakar, I was asked to fill immigration papers but Europeans justs walked through and my European friends and colleagues were waiting for me to finish with immigration issues.How ironic? Upon return, I was held at the same airport and I answered all the questions that they asked me but they did not believe. It took just a word from my colleague who happens to be European to make the airport police let me go.

Now people tell me, who do I blame, what do I say? if there is one thing that I know, visa issues are a global issue. I know the stereotype is there when it comes to European embassies and people from developing countries. Africans we can complain all what we want but it wont change anything. Europe has been made easy for Europeans.

We can start making Africa easy for Africans or we take their nonsense and not complain.I say we make Africa easy. Making Africa easy will mean investing in young people, opening African borders so that we can get to know each other. We don't know each other. Sometimes I feel that we are just countries in a particular geographic location. Africa should stop joining all these neocolonialist initiatives that group ex colonist together. Did we not fight for our freedom and win it? why then are we grateful to be part of an initiative where the only similarity is that all members were once slaves? Its about time Africans start fighting for Africa.
mah abo said…
tq u to highlight this real daily issue ,, same happened to me for australia, us, coratia, uk and so on,,,
i prove all documents wth full sponsorship and many history travels , enough finance cover, but every time they refused and fake illogical and unfair excuses .
we must move as youth leaders to do action against them ,, our countries must do same to those, when their citizens will be rejected for getting visa to our countries or will be faced so strict system to apply, or face un welcoming there,,, then something will be changed.
do u agree with me?
MAHMOUD / PALESTINE

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