Saturday, August 29, 2009

bore-rocracy

The UK has recently decided to tighten its ass borders (who hasn't I suppose), and clearly regard us [shudder] Africans as a real threat (who doesn't I suppose). For the first time South Africans need a visa to visit Pomland. A very expensive and tediously detailed visa.
One which requires the completion of a 12 page form (which includes questions along the lines of 'Have you ever been involved in any activities which could cast you as a person of dubious character?') - I say old bean? Me, dubious, nevah! - and the collection of all kinds of letters of sponsorship and proof of this and that and, lordy, I just want to go for a 10 day stay!

Prior to this flexing of its chinless superiority, Britain let South Africans breeze in and out with an automatic 3 month visa and just a little bit of requisite questioning at Heathrow Immigration. Very sporting of them, what?

But those glory days are over. Now it's a mile long form, a dossier of accompanying documentation and - shudder - an interview.
So I toddle along at the appointed hour with duplicate copies of all said documents and my tongue firmly instructed to behave and my eyeballs instructed not to perform any rolling. I wait in the queue 'til the automated voice calls my number (and here, despite my annoyance with the whole process Ms Tannoy reminds me of the Tube and I feel a flutter of excitement about London. Yay!), and then all I have to do is hand over my dossier and go home (oh and be photographed and finger-printed. Yup, like a convict.) It seems the whole 'Interview' is merely a guise to actually see my face, to check that I really am the nice middle-class blonde I claim to be.

And if I wasn't?

Daily there are stories in our papers of ex-political activists being barred from travelling due to having 'criminal records' (i.e. charge sheets from the apartheid days) and Muslim clerics being barred for no good reason. But even for less illustrious travellers, it's getting harder to go anywhere. Unless you're in possession of an American, British or EU passport (and I think a Brit one is still first prize) you're basically doomed to a travelling life of exorbitant visa fees, pen cramp, queues and very possible major disappointment. Not to mention having to reveal all kinds of info about your life, family (the British visa application wanted me to list everyone I'm related to or know in the UK with their addresses and telephone numbers and 'nature of our relationship'. Excuse me big brother but actually you can fuck off.), financial situation, past, future, sexual preference, health (can you believe that HIV is a notifiable disease for an American visa applicant?) etc. etc.

Is this how we're ghettoising the global village?
We all purport to be sooooo interested in each other right now but what, only if we can communicate over the internet?
Let's have an massive rock concert to raise money for those poor Zimbabweans, but dear god don't let any of them in here!
We like to have your South African art in our government buildings but no, no, don't worry, we'll come over there and collect it.
We'd like to stock your homeware in our super exclusive stores but we want to pay even less than your local wholesale rate, oh ja and we're going to rebrand it and say it's from 'Africa' as opposed to an actual country within that vast and diverse continent.

Ok, I'll shut up now, I'm just having a little moan about cultural imperialism and bureaucracy and the fact that I had to spend so much time on this piddly little piece of paper in my passport.

Which, did I mention, I got! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay - bring on the London funtimes! Yes I will flock to your foreign shores and spend my hard earned forex and take a zillion photos and go on and on about how amazing it all was to the utter boredom of everyone at home. And yes I will glance away from the bench of desperate asylum-seekers (many of them African) as I breeze through immigration, visa in hand, to visit the Tate Modern and gorge myself on European cheese and relish your efficient public transport systems.

Yes, I will pander to the West you fuckers. I can't wait!

6 comments:

recipes for the life said...

Ha ha ha, you are on roll! Congrats for getting hold of the visa. Expecting some great pics of the Great Britain.

♥ Chaitra

B said...

This post made me laugh and seriously think about some important issues at the same time!
But you got the visa! Yay!

Kim said...

Good on you for getting your visa. Hope you have a great trip.

Nabula said...

As a pom: Ouch! Can totally see how annoying that must be though - I didn't realise it was so strict now. As one of the non-superior majority (in possession of chin and very sporting to boot) I hope you have a super time in Blighty!

julochka said...

i swear this only just popped into my reader, despite saying aug. 29...

tho' i don't need a visa to get into the UK, i do get a thorough grilling when i go in. the last time, for blog camp, they asked churlishly what i was there for and i flippantly replied "fun." i've also been known to say "lunch" just to be really cheeky. and well, because it was true.

their eyes always get wide, because they think i've popped across the atlantic for lunch, not realizing its a commuter flt. across the north sea...

but your point about ghettoizing the global village is an excellent one (as is that phrase, brainy girl).

and seriously, if all the blog campers from UK are going to get together with you while you're there, i'm SOOOoo coming. so email me your dates, will ya?

xox,
/j

p.s. are you still using old blogger rather than blogger in draft? is that why this says aug. 29?

Annabel said...

You can tell me how amazing it was a million times and I will love every story and live vicariously through you. Hmmm, or do I need a passport for that? ;-)