I wonder, however, how many of you have ever found yourself on the wrong side of the, er... immigration line? Well, I have, my friends! Many a time, in fact. That is the joy of travelling abroad on what is affectionately dubbed the "Green Mamba"... A South African passport does not open up many doors. Virtually every country seems to demand a pre-arranged travel permit. The upside is that — if you're lucky enough to travel a lot — your passport pages get filled with cool looking stamps and visas. The downside is the administrative shlep that comes with any travel plans (say nothing of the massive handbrake on spontaneous trips) and the not-insignificant amount of money that I've had to sink into obtaining said visas.
Today is a good example. I spent the better part of five hours queuing in the Portuguese Immigration Service's charming Lisbon offices, forking over €146 — €146!-- at the end to secure a six week extension to my student exchange visa. (Whatever happened to student prices?) As they say: the service wasn't great, but at least the waiter was rude. Prior to this I had, over the course of the last month or so, visited several disparate immigration offices/affiliates to obtain "essential" documentation for my big moment today. Needless to say, I am deeply humbled by the benevolent authorities' decision to graciously extend my visa so that I might actually sit exams now. I would also like to voice my appreciation for the selfsame authorities who, in their infinite wisdom, only allocated a three-month visa at the outset of my trip. I would mention that I've already been vetted with a two-year residency permit by a fellow Schengen country, but you know me.. I don't like to complain.
Anyway, I was thinking of this and immigration policy in general when I came across this video, which features an amazingly erudite individual from the British Defence League:
"Muslamic Ray Guns".
Via 6000, who also includes this disturbingly catchy auto-tuned version:
Churchill wept... Although, to be fair to lad, he'd probably sunk a good few cans of Stella prior to the interview.
Not too long ago, I was chatting to a relative of mine about migrants to the UK.[*] His basic position was that the UK has got itself into all kinds of social and economic trouble, because it has opened the floodgates to huge numbers of people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. This horde of foreigners are eroding the fabric of British life.[**]
I nearly choked on my tea and scones.
My reply was something along the lines of: "Are you kidding me? The Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and co. (say nothing of the eastern European immigrants from Poland and elsewhere) have become the lifeblood of the British economy. In some areas, they're about the only people that actually work! The UK's biggest social problem, may very well be that they've been raising a generation of yobs and chavs... I've lived in countries where social welfare systems work very well (i.e. Scandinavia), but I'm afraid that Britain does not fall into this category. Immigrants are an easy scapegoat, but the British people need to take a long hard look at themselves to get to grips with their problems."
I think I'll be forwarding these videos on...
Anyway, I really just wanted to moan about immigration red tape and perceptions. Not that I want to come across as too much of an ungrateful gobshite, mind you; I've been very fortunate to travel widely. Studying, working and living abroad are luxuries that few get to experience and I'm well aware of that. Still, it would have been easier if I had dual passports.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The grass isn't always greener on the other side, but it's nice to be able to take a look once in a while. Even if they have Muslamic ray guns.
[*] At this point, I should say that I lived and worked myself as a "migrant" for two years and continue to visit regularly to see friends and family.
[**] I'm using the UK and Britain interchangeably here just to catch the spirit of the argument. Of course, they aren't quite the same thing... Especially if you happen to be from Northern Ireland.