I am in Europe until August 2006; before my departure to Afghanistan I wanted to go and see my sister and her family in Nederlands. I have filled an application for a schengen visa in the royal Dutch embassy. This was a month ago. I have made such attempts before, but there was either something wrong with my invitation letter or my polish visa, the dutch only issues a visa if these are valid for three months at the time of applying.
First attempt was during the winter holidays a few months ago, but they rejected my application on the ground of not having the three month valid polish visa. This is while during the first six months of my stay in Poland, the polish immigration was only issuing me one month visa and that is after waiting in a queue of 30 people. I was spending two days every month to get my polish visa. I went to the immigration office to ask for a three month visa, but they said I can’t file two residency applications at the same time. They were processing my temporary residency card valid for five months. So I give up on Dutch visa.
Before the Ester holidays which was a month ago I asked my sister to send me another invitation, by the time it got through all bureaucracy and it reached me it was ten days later.
I thought since I have all the documents I might give it another shot and luck may accompany me this time.
The room was packed with a lot of Belarusian running away from an ugly dictator and Dutch provide them a safeheaven with better life. There are around 30 people in a 30m2 it was scorching and noisy, it resembled a prison cell but the inmates were not relaxed they weren’t as though they were going to stay there. They were all as there body was itching they all wanted to reach the officer desk. There are four cabins but there was only one woman and she was moving in between, she was doing the job of cashier, receptionist to hand out blank forms and interviewer. The room was full with the odour of sweat. it’s a glass room that is perhaps why it was so hot comparing to the outside, it’s a very modern room with those modern glass doors that you don’t know how to open there are four glass doors while one is required and visa applicants who usually comes from poor countries, as rich people of course don’t need visas, would inevitable trap themselves in between and it took me some time to make my way through them. The whole building is modern, the walls are made of tree-shaped metals bundled together and curves into each other; some are palm some are banana, but they are blue as oppose to natural green tree colour. I was surprised while I saw the visa section in one room; applicants were waiting, filling the form, paying the fee, getting the form and visa in the same room. I am sure Nederland could afford to make another room, I am not an architect but looking at the amount of money spent on the decoration of the building, if that money was spent on the visa section, you could easily make another room. Inside the visa room is also very modern, there are two huge post-modernist pictures of faces, played with very brutally in Photoshop, I easily spotted how they had used the liquidize, squash and stretch options. The colour effect was horrible, they look like a post nuclear radiation generation. My first impression was if it was reminding the Belarusian anything, I was wondering if it was reminding them the Chernobyl, a human catastrophe, seven million people who suffer from malbody shape, kids with four times bigger forehead than normal people whose parents either suffer blood or skin cancer, whose parents can’t go to the work and buy him medicine, because he can’t grow anything on the farm because the high radiation kills the plant and the soil and it will continue to do for another at least 900 years. The only way of survival is to live off 40 cent a day from the government to buy uncontaminated food. Pain is torturous for some people but exotic for other. The hardship and survival style of the poor inspires the glamorous art of the rich.
Half a dozen shabby Belarusians seemed more in pain, there fat bodies were occupying more space in the room and they were sweating more. Their skin was wet, they looked uncomfortable, it resembled as they had acid on their skin and constantly were using tissue paper or a piece of wet cloth to wipe off the sweat. in this world of 30m2 there were some people singly standing, frowning depressingly, at a corner of the room. There were also crowd of four to seven people in the corners of the room they were in circles and they whispering loud to each other, if it wasn’t in this room I would have thought that they are playing American football and they are planning an attacks. In this one team there was guys only wearing a waistcoat, some were wearing dutch sport cloth, one was orange with bold letters saying Nederland.
These guys were together because an employer in Nederland needed five cheap east European labour and found these guys and sent an invitation letter for four to be granted work visa in the embassy.
Women were separate in a corner of the room, four blond women were discussing something, and each of them took something out of their purse, an apple and some punchok. They were sharing it. One had a big plastic bottle of coke cola; they more often needed to go to the toilet. Every time you needed to go to the toilet you had to ask the visa section woman to open it, you were only able after her approval and her pressing some button.
There is an A4 size notice on the consulate window saying ‘if you volunteer to provide us with medical insurance of more than 25000euros we will probably issue you a visa tomorrow, this is if you submit all other documents’.
This explained why I saw some polish company brochures everywhere in the room. They were trying to sell health insurance.
I wanted to make some clarification to make sure I have the right insurance. But they closed they said there time is over and they don’t take anymore questions.
I dashed outside and tried to put this insurance together.
The next day I returned. Same thing, but new Belarusians, yesterday ones might have already been in Holland.
I waited for four hours until it was my turn, I happen to be the last person, although people who came after me made it before me. It’s the Belarusians who screwed me over. The clerk shouted something in Russian and I guess what she said: she asked how many people waiting.
And the Belarusians said six and I said no seven. The woman handed out a piece of signed paper. a Belarusian asked for some more and he distributed in the room and kept some for his mates who came later.
I had enough of it and I told this guy:
– Look mate, I have been here before you and I think it’s my turn
– He said: No you are the last.
– I said: what are you talking about I have been here before all of you guys.
– He said: but you are not whiting in the line.
– I said: I do, he said the line is here but you are standing over there.
– I said: what difference does that makes, we are not waiting in Red Army queue. I am here and I wait; we don’t have to be in one line.
Once this didn’t work he said, but can I go first because I have something urgent in an hour which I have to get to. I wanted to tell him that I had a class in an hour and many other things. I wanted to tell him that it was such a bullcrap to ask people if you could go first because you have some thing to do. We are always in a rush and everyone has something to do. But I said fine you go ahead, because I knew he was not going to give up he was determined to go first. And I knew it was going to turn out like one of those many instances where you are the minority and a majority who support their member unjustly and blindly. Six other Belarusian already started murmuring and they were establishing that I was an asshole. This is not about this room; this is how life in Europe is if you don’t have a European passport.
The next person wanted to go and I said “oh, no dude. It’s my turn”.
The clerk said: “give me your paper.”
I give it to her; she showed me the number on it and it was saying ‘seven’ while the other guy was ‘four’.
I realised when the clerk handed out the signed papers it was actually numbers and the Belarusians decided to give me the last number.
I submitted everything, except she didn’t like my photo and she made me to go and get another one with 75% of my face. I had to be back in an hour before they close. That was quite a race. After I delivered my new photo she asked me to come tomorrow at three.
The next day the room was packed and yesterday applicants were receiving their visas. She shouted out my name but she pronounced it really bad. In polish they read Sanjar; like sanyiar. So I missed it the first time; I went closer to see my picture or passport and I managed to spot it, she pronounced the name wrong again.
I got my passport but there was no visa.
I said: “where is my visa”
– and she is: “we are not going to give you today you have to wait two to three weeks.”
– I said: “but why? Everyone else is getting their visas”
– and she said: “We have to run a background check on you at the ministry of foreign affairs”.
She said I have to call in three weeks.
This is still fine and I thought if I get the visa on 22 or 23 then I can fly out on 26 and get to see my sister for a few days before her departure to Kabul on 29. I purchased a non-refundable but cheap ticket on 26. I called the embassy on 23 as 22 was a holiday and they said your visa is not yet here. He asked me if my host in Nederland has been questioned by ministry of foreign affairs and I said it was a week ago and they delivered all the required documents.
I asked him if he could advice anything, what shall I do with the ticket? He said he can’t dare to say anything. I said you have the experience of working in the embassy and there must be precedents. “Please, help me”.
– He said: I should call again before 26 to see if my visa is there. I also sent him an email, which he didn’t reply to.
It turned out that the embassy was not working on 24 and 25 was a Dutch holiday. Now it’s the 26th and I can’t go to see my sister. I am stuck in Warsaw. I paid 60euros to change my flight to July 24th, when my sister returns to Nederland; returning back to Warsaw on the 3 of august.
But I just realised that my polish residency expires on July 31 and I can’t return here to catch my flight to Kabul. Now I have to pay another 60 euros to change it to some other dates. Nothing can be planned; there are so many things which could go wrong. Maybe the visa is only valid for one month, I didn’t ask for it, but what I ask or didn’t ask for doesn’t matter it depends what they issue me. If it’s less than three months I can’t use it because my sister is going to be in Kabul for a month then I have a conference and faculty diploma jury panel to defend my thesis and exams. Maybe I wasted so much of my time for nothing I missed classes to file application I spent a lot of money on the tickets and visa; but I won’t be able to use it. There are so many things that could go wrong. It’s very frustrating, because I know they make up all these regulation to make you not to travel but you can’t do much because everybody accepts it. You can’t say it’s unjust and irrational because its part of a process and it’s hidden in bureaucracy.
The good old John Locke said: all persons have natural rights just because they are human beings. Everyone is born with these rights. No one can take these rights away and they include: the right to life, property and liberty. The right to liberty is to be free. It includes what you want to speak and travel wherever you want to go.
This sounds logical but not necessarily practical.