Race, Policy, Inequality

The world’s racist travel laws won’t let me travel the way I want to

I was a Pakistani from the Third World which automatically and supposedly, turned me into a potential terrorist, perpetrator, economic migrant, threat etc.

I was born into a nomad household – a strong, globetrotting family unit where my wonderful parents were in charge of providing me and sister with the best cultural experiences by embarking us on as many foreign trips as possible.

My young mind was oblivious to the concept of applying for visas and subsequent nightmares which accompany the horrifying process of booking a holiday abroad. For me, it was the steady progression of falling asleep on a plane that took off from one country and waking up when it landed in another.

Fast forward a decade, and we were no longer taking family trips. Mum and dad continued to gallivant across the planet on their own, my sister was caught up with her married life, and I moved out and abroad for another degree, which essentially meant making an attempt at keeping my shit together.

Living in the UK meant having easy access to the entire continent through budget airlines, cheaper arrangements, and discounted deals. I spent my free hours swooning over Facebook articles, reminding myself that ‘living my dreams’ was never easier.

Little did I forget that those carefully crafted editorial pieces cater to only one particular demographic – AKA First World Citizens.

I, on the other hand, had been granted entry into the other side of the world, which issued me a green passport as a token of appreciation for my birth. I was a Pakistani from the Third World which automatically and supposedly, turned me into a potential terrorist, perpetrator, economic migrant, threat, etc.

I now live and work in London, but my passport still grants me visa-free access to less than 30 countries and that too, under strict conditions. My wanderlust alter-ego cannot plan spontaneous lunches in Paris and extended trips to Japan without going through the God awful process of bruising my passport with an inordinate surplus of visas.

The first visa application I made as a solo traveler consisted of questions related to my profession, financial situation; a bank statement with a hefty amount retained in my account for three months straight, plus booked return flights and hotel accommodation. My mood faltered a bit and went further downhill when the glorious travel permit stamped on my passport stated that it was only valid for the duration of my trip.

Which meant, each time I planned to make a new journey to other parts of the European Union, I had to apply for a fresh visa and go through the torturous/expensive procedure all over again.

And that’s just traveling.

Applying for a job abroad is another unbearable scenario that green passport bearers like me face. Multiple degrees and job experiences might never be good enough simply because of a particular nationality. Soon after finishing my degree, companies instantaneously scheduled interviews only to be immediately disappointed at the prospect of sponsoring my right to work for them in a foreign country.

Apart from one that finally saw potential and decided to give me a chance.

However, that was good luck mixed with money, innumerable interview rounds and deathly amounts of hard work. Almost EVERYONE has to make the journey back home if faced with failure to find a job in the four months that is allotted to each student after completing their degree in the UK, whereas majority holding first world passports are either allowed to stay in the country for a longer period, or indefinitely.

How is that fair? The discrimination is what essentially drives people apart and portrays one side of the world as superior to another.

I am very well aware that rules are extremely important and awful people exist everywhere, but shouldn’t there be a filtration system that separates the good from the trouble makers? Who am I supposed to blame? The government? My parents? The heavens above? Universal injustice? Was I born on the wrong side of the world?

There’s also the ever slight tinge of racism attached to it. The widespread hatred drilled into people to always be innately afraid of foreigners doesn’t help the situation either. The fact that I am a good person who loves helping others will almost, possibly, never be taken into account.

So what do individuals who seek a better prospect for themselves and their future offspring do? Sure, they have first persevered and exhausted all their options within their home country. They have voiced their opinions, fought hard for justice, have always obliged to rules and gained a significant amount of knowledge working with locals in a familiar environment.

Do these people have no right to push through their boundaries and experience another world? All these articles circulating the internet urging young people to explore the globe and change their unfulfilling living situations are always targeted towards citizens carrying powerful passports, leaving little room for majority parts of the visa applying inhabitants of the planet.

The only options left for us include paying an extortionate fee to wealthy countries for processing of a foreign citizenship application which is almost always impossible, unbelievably falling in love with somebody living abroad or landing a charismatic job by some miracle of God. Option number two doesn’t come easy to most people because the world isn’t a real-life version of Tinder and people don’t necessarily wish to marry random people without knowing them adequately first, if at all.

I guess the only real alternative left for us is to hope and pray that situations become better over time and more doors with opportunities open for people who are genuine, sincere and mean no harm to anybody – a filtration structure, to sift through the dreadful and appreciate the high-quality.