Saturday, July 5, 2008

Visa For Iraqis To The Netherlands

Why don't Dutch embassies - or any other embassy of any other country in the world - do one joint effort and put a big sign at their compounds' main gates, saying "No Visa for Iraqis"? This will really save a lot of time and energy for both the Iraqi who is applying for the visa and for the embassy employee. Most importantly, maybe for the Iraqi, it would save a lot of money!

I realize that the whole world knows about Iraqis who still on the run because of the horrible situation their politicians put them into around the years, but denying them visit visa in such a pathetic way as I am going to explain is something beyond humane!

There are a lot of Iraqis around with Dutch nationality who would love to invite their relatives (sister, brother, aunt...etc) to the Netherlands. The Dutch embassy in Baghdad does not issue visit visas - actually if we look into their website, they don't issue anything related to visas, passport or any other sort documents. In this case, Iraqis should be either have to apply for a visit visa at the Dutch embassy in Amman, Jordan or that one in Damascus, Syria. Entry to both Arab countries became difficult since the end of last year - in the past, anyone can take a taxi or a bus and travel to these two countries. Now Iraqis have to go to either Syrian or Jordanian embassies in Baghdad to apply for an entry visa. They have to pay more than 50 dollars fee and they have to give valid and approved (with written proof) on the reasons they want to enter these two countries. The written proof can be a medical report or school enrollment certificate, or business related authentication. For visit trips to relative to the Netherlands, all embassies would ask for: invitation from Dutch signed and approved by the municiplity of city or twon the invitee from. In additon, three kopies of salary statements must be also submitted with the visa application form and the invitation form. Optionally a letter to the embassy explaining the purpose for the trip can also be sent. All these documents must be first be checked by the Jordanian and Syrian embassies to verify the truth behind that person's applying for entry visa. After a couple of days, a week to the most, an entry visa is granted and that poor Iraqi would be able to travel and arrange a date where he or she would go to the Dutch embassy to submit all these papers, again! Additional to that, some of these embassies ask for more papers, such as, ownership of a property in Iraq and bank statement - according to the law and regulations for applying for a visa, these two are only asked in case someone is applying for a tourist visa and not in case Dutch citizen inviting someone to the Netherlands! However, the Iraqi comply with no objections, thinking that this country has the right to ask anything and acquire anything!

Then comes the interview: it is indeed asking about every single member of the family; about work experience; education; children; marriage date - if married; what is the purpose for the visit? how long is intended to stay? If there are children or relative living in the Netherlands...etc

From all people I heard from and talked with, all of them went through the same experience: bad treatment by the Dutch embassy staff in Jordan and in Syria - consensus on: The way they talk is like talking to a piece of garbage and not a human being; emotionless, faces with no expression; they ignore you or just don't answer you when you ask something - keep head down like they are busy writing notes; and some make fun in a sarcastic way that sometimes hurt the feelings!

After all that degradation, the Iraqi is given a reference number, and asked to call in a month or forty days time to check whether the visa application has been accepted or rejected. The forty days passes by, and many Iraqis waited much longer- months! After that period is completed, a simple answer is received with a written letter: "...not convinced that you are going to leave the territories after your stay permit ends..."

After all that money spent for staying at a place in another country, expenses for food and drink, and visa fees; after all the energy spent in traveling outside Iraq ( some took a leave from their work to arrange their trip, and some just left their families behind thinking that they would go like any human being for a vacation) and the time consuming arranging papers here and there; above all that, the hopes and expectations were becoming higher and higher every day passes by to see relatives after all many years... All this vanished... and the worse part is the bitter experience of being directly or indirectly being looked down at by that embassy employee, as if that Iraqi has no dignity - some sort of a human litter, or as if that Iraqi is begging for that visa!

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