Sunday, August 23, 2009

Diplomacy for Visa Lust?

By Krishna Hari Pushkar

Nepal's diplomatic dexterity is a largely discussed and experienced background for its hapless behavior. Global as well as Nepalese eyes are often found itching while viewing the contradictions of our diplomacy. The Public have difficulties seeing any positive changes in diplomatic disposition, or even any changes at all, except changes of diplomats and their vested interests. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassies, Consulates and its employees always claim outstanding performance, however the general public are left disappointed.

Peoples read, and watch huge lexis, and click on the various Media, only to be told that Nepal's diplomats are smart, or that they are intensively working to build effective and efficient multilateral and bilateral relationship, to achieve prosperous cooperation, and to fulfill national desires. The diplomatic advocates cite rumors through channels of their own of high performance. However, the realities are atrocious.

Now the public has come to realize that these claims are made just to enjoy diplomatic privilege and immunities, to get appointments, promotions, to remain in charming places, and just to popularize themselves for further career advancement.

As an example, the Nepalese feel difficulties while applying for a visa. It doesn't matter whether a Nepalese is applying for an American, German, British, Chinese, Nigerian, Somalian, Burmese or Bhutanese visa. Especially developed countries exploit the Nepalese visa applicant. Sadly, there are many cases where even the visa holding Nepalese is refused entry, and is expelled, without any justification.

Many countries have already imposed strict visa limits to Nepalese citizens, who had been previously granting either gratis or on-rival visas for decades.

Moreover, the Nepalese have to face another horrible financial exploitation by dozens of world powers. They collect millions of dollars in the name of nonrefundable application fees without ever issuing visas. In Nepal, most of the Nepal-based embassies, consulates, and also India-based missions, whose jurisdiction is to handle Nepalese visas, are profiting from the application fees/administrative costs. They provide a large portion of development aid from the same money that Nepalese applicants paid them in the name of visa application and other administrative fees.
Previously, even many European countries had been issuing on-arrival visas for Nepalese, some developed countries were offering free visas, and some were offering even visa waiver options for Nepalese. Now all these previously enjoyed privileges have banned for Nepalese, although Nepal has been still offering same facilities for these nations as they had in former times. Isn't it unfair?

Now Nepalese are having a very hard time facing the visa process. The radical visa system is against the norms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the non-granting nations' thought is that it is a great tool to control foreign migration or to intervene in particular developing nations. They believe that manipulating the visa is a great tool to uphold their national interests and also to enforce the public diplomacy in respective countries. They believe it is essential for security, but that does not mean only physical security, but also socioeconomic security, as per the wish of their people and governments.

Experts claim that such types of visa policy may be considered as "Neo-Nazi Visa Syndrome (NNVS)." This policy promotes discrimination, segregation, and ultimately swells the gap between poor and rich. The radical NNVS has been found to promote terrorism. Such visa strategy fuels anger against the developed and developing world. People have committed suicide, due to the hopelessness of continuous visa refusal. Many people have committed serious crimes and have gone bankrupt while trying to get visas. Media reports prove that many foreigners from developed world are often assaulted while traveling in the underdeveloped world due to the visa frustration. In addition, such visa tension has become now a greater source of corruption in many part of the world. It increases illegality, social crimes (paper marriage, divorce, illegal migration, unlawful asylum, family disconnect, domestic and private violence etc) and has left many people with mental disorders across the world. People commit many crimes, and engage in corruption, manipulation, frustration, fakes, mafias and illegal mechanisms either to obtain the visa or to deal with the intricacies of visas.

The visa is a one of the most basic issues of any people who wish to travel abroad. Also, the visa is a principle indicator to know a nation's diplomatic strength and the status of their mutual relations. Observers have found that Nepal's diplomacy is one of the poorest in the world. The general public has to suffer and they feel ashamed of their national diplomatic capabilities while trying to obtain visas for the intended nation, especially for the developed countries (US, UK, Japan, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, France, etc). The diplomatic leaders and top level elite people do not concern themselves about such matters because they hold privileged passports and have access to a discounted visa-obtaining process. Undeniably, it is unfair and an injustice to general citizens. It is surprising to see that there is no evidence yet towards resolving the issue by any Nepalese authorities. The issue was also brought to the attention of the respective bureaucrats of Nepal. They absolutely denied any previous or future plans to address the national anguish, yet shamefully accepted their mistakes. During the study it was also found that no any diplomats or any leaders have forwarded such concerns with any visa imposing governments and authorities as of now. The visa problem for Nepalese has gone beyond tolerance, though it is not yet our national diplomatic priority. Isn't it bizarre?

The question has emerged over the dignity and sovereignty of Nepal. So it is time to pressure our diplomats and political leaders to bring the issues to the global diplomatic arena - that Nepalese also must get easy visa access in accordance with approved and general procedures. An If No visa, then No fee policy should be adopted. Our diplomats must try to use their best efforts to pressure the international community to provide on-arrival short visas. If all the diplomatic efforts fail then maybe the Nepal Government should also impose at least an equal policy and procedure for those nations who give us a hard time.

Of course, the visa imposing nations may argue that simplified visa provisions may cause growing illegal migration, or argue that Nepalese may enter or will stay illegally in developed countries, and this could be a threat on their national security. These arguments may be true, however they are not enough to discriminate or impede a Nepalese from a duly requested visa.

Experts describe many ways to address aforementioned problems and to introduce an efficient and relevant visa policy. The Government of Nepal and respective countries may develop together a joint computerized system along with effective administrative, security, and economical strategy to control and prevent possible threats and crimes.
The Nepalese people do not have any more patience to suffer such dictatorial, insulting and inhuman visa policies. The Nepal Government as well as concerned diplomatic missions and its Government should rethink the visa policy. Everyone should know that Nepalese citizens rank lowest in the global crime involvement index (criminality, illegal stays, and violating the rules and regulation etc. of any visa-imposing countries). The majority of Nepalese have good social, moral, professional and ethical characters wherever they are living. However, it is hard to understand why Nepalese have to face up to such a hard time to obtain visas. Other countries, whose citizens are in the upper ranks in crime index, in comparison to Nepalese, get easy access to visas.

Hence, it is the responsibility of Nepal's Government, as well as of the international community to analyze the unlawful and inhumane visa situation and to fulfill the visa needs of Nepal. Why are mainly Nepalese being discriminated against and exploited? Why are powerful nations violating the norms of the universal declaration of human rights by refusing genuine visa applications and banning the freedom of movement? Often, Nepalese are barred from family reunions, advanced study abroad, research and development, business, medical treatment, employment, tourism and more, due to immense visa refusals. Why Nepalese are being excluded from global opportunity? Why do the developed, powerful, nations consider that a poor country has no human rights, as developed countries have? All concerned authorities should know that they must respect the norms of universal human rights and practice dignified diplomatic norms. Freedom of movement, human dignity, equality, individual sovereignty and mutual respect should not be diminished due to visa or diplomatic despotism. The Government of Nepal should undertake an urgent initiative to resolve the issue properly, otherwise the day will come where on the one hand Nepalese people are totally blocked from international access, and on the other hand, international communities and foreign countries have to face multiple disturbances.

(Mr. Pushkar is a Peace, Security and Conflict Management professional and works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Nepal, E-mail:

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Asking for a Rethink on US Immigration Diplomacy

By Krishna Hari Pushkar

The US immigration diplomacy is ridiculous and inimical for the developing world. It fuels anti-American anger in the developing world, and it assists terrorists who always keep an eye open to see weakness in the US position. Therefore, urgent reform is needed to address the horror of the exiting immigration diplomacy.

The enduring US immigration diplomacy has become frosty for non-US citizens. Every time, foreigners have to pass through a hapless screaming while facing the visa process or to get immigration clearance at the port of entry in the United States. Foreigners are not against the existing law and process but the behavior by US Immigration authorities. It is sad to describe that most of the travelers are not happy and get upset while they face the US officials. Foreigners clearly experience the racism, humiliation, domination and discrimination while passing through US visa and immigration processes.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the US applied and enforced all possible powers and strategies for better national security, which is appreciated in many ways. However, to tighten up and maintain the dignity and rights of travelers during the visa and immigration clearance process at the point of entry does not require lowering of proper manners and professional ways of the US officials. The US is being highly criticized abroad for its actions. There are plenty of examples that the US has extended direct and indirect apologies for such wrongdoings in many cases, but there has not yet been any serious reform to address the issues.

The process should be delivered in a professional and courteous manner as Americans have been enjoying and expecting in other countries. A US official may examine the documents and conduct needed inquiries in a decent, disciplined and respectful manner. Almost all developing countries have experienced that even their VIPs were insulted during the visa obtaining and immigration clearance process.

There are international laws and universally accepted diplomatic norms concerning the immigration and border security policy, approved and accepted by almost all international communities and nations.

It is always sad to hear a US spokesperson reporting that outsiders were detained or inhumanly interrogated, refused or delayed or barred from visa or clearance due to some security or technical reason, which often is questioned by others in the world. Human rights defenders and international communities question US authorities about their conduct of immigration and security clearances. Many say the US visa and immigration clearance procedures are unacceptable. Poorly designed processes and procedures are an assault on the dignity and rights of sovereign people.

The US immigration process is like a curfew for foreigners. It is well accepted that continuous "curfew" cannot be a perfect tool to control violent groups or to protect life, liberty and property of the people. The curfew is one of the most important tools for security. Curfew cannot be imposed for long term because when security is tightened, public freedom is kept under strict control. This is why the US visa and immigration clearance procedure seems like a curfew. The US authority must transform the curfew into a professional regular process otherwise it will be tagged like the ineffective curfews during ethnic insurgency.

The currently imposed visa and immigration procedures degrade the national and public prestige of the US. Such policies increase the anger against the US and it's Government. There are many examples the US visa and Immigration policy have turned foreign people and experts to act against the interest of the US. Consequently the time will come when few foreigners will remain to work in and interest of the US and finally the lonely US will be in the global enemies list for rest of the world. Supremacy is nice but loneliness is painful, so the US must understand this horrible symptom and should be careful to guard against this vulnerability. The growing population of anti-American foreigners could be assistive to the terrorists' strategy, whose principal goal is to create an anti American environment across the world and to depose the US from it's existing prosperous position.

Some experts raise a question to the immigration and border security officials, asking how they can judge the profile of a person in so short a time? Physical profile may be examined by submitted or presented documents but psychological or mental status may not be judged until the traveler speaks during their inquiry, which is almost impossible that any people wants to be fail by his/her own causes.

How can an official judge someone in a minute or even in an hour? Researchers claim that security is mainly related to psychological affairs rather than physical perspective. Document examination and a short FAQ are not enough to judge someone on their affiliation with anti-security activities. If it was so, then why were terrorists able to obtain visas successfully, through tight and sophisticated visa interviews? If the visa and immigration offers can judge properly then why do they not deny the visa application rather to conduct inhuman and insulting behavior during the immigration and security clearance at the port of entry in the US? Sometimes, if there is strong proof against someone then there might be some exceptional cases that they have to pass through very strict and abnormal process in the port of entry.

The developing countries have many examples that the US embassy helps their citizens even when doing punishable acts. US authorities extend official protests when US citizens face delay, or a hard time while clearing security and visa even in normal manner. US citizens enjoy privileges in terms of visa and immigration clearance process in many countries. There are very rare incidents of visa refusal or refusal from the entry clearance of US passport holders. The US seems to consider visa refusal and entry refusal of its citizens as a national insult. It also considers as a big question over the national prestige and poor-ranking of its diplomacy.

The US often refuses citizens of developing countries in the visa and entry clearance processes. It is not a matter whether the visa or entry seekers is minister, parliamentarian, celebrity or approved vip, they just see the passport book, if it is found issued by any developing government. The US authorities should keep in mind that what happens if the developing countries also ask for equal treatment or "Tit for Tat? Does the US accept and ready to face similar cost? Of course not, so the US authorities also need to think about such pitiable situation that how they are acting against the people of developing countries.

Most foreigners are neither in negative list nor have bad intentions, so the people who have no bad intentions should not be terrorized in the name of security provisions and immigration diplomacy. Normal travelers should be handled normally. The US is very prosperous, exemplary and the richest country in the world. So, the US may develop special tools, techniques and mechanism to control the activity and movement of the foreigners while they are in the US.

Hong Kong and Singapore are good examples for immigration diplomacy. It is hard for foreigners to get a visa and immigration clearance in Hong Kong, Luxemburg, Norway, Macau and Singapore but the manner of the officials with foreigners is not so rude. These have the lowest crime rate in global ranking index but are considered most successful for their immigration diplomacy. In these places, foreigners are controlled with laws and they keep foreigners efficiently and tactfully under security surveillance. For the US, it is hard to get visa and clearance from the immigration at the point of entry, but once you enter, foreigners are not stressed for further activity. Foreigners who enter often live there for a long time, if they live in a normal way. There are many foreigners living in the United States breaking visa laws but the authorities are silent.

For example, people obtain tourist visa but they work or study, students obtain study visa but they work indefinitely after completion of study, no matter whether you are living without having the proper category of visa stamped in the passport. Even in the US Bank, the over stay or illegal alien do not requires visa strictly for banking transactions. People can join and continue the academic and training institution without obtaining the respective visa.

There are no authorities who have exact and updated records and files on the foreigners' activity. Of course there are many institutions and mechanism developed by the US laws however they are limited in formalities. There is minimal supervision and control over foreigners' activities, once inside the US.

It is totally erroneous to know the US authorities still believe that only tightening visa and immigration clearance at the border security point can save the country from possible danger. To outsiders, this seems unbelievable.

They should also think immediately about the negative impact of such terror that how general foreigners may react over such behavior. The US is a country of prosperity, opportunity, power and freedom. People have extreme craze to travel, live, work, study, and stay in the US. Such charming and attraction continues only while the US maintains and offers the minimum standards of humanity towards the outlanders.

The US universal commitment and avowal towards pluralism, diversity and broader human rights will be broken if the US is unable to pay attention and transform into a friendly and acceptable immigration diplomacy.

The US must introduce and practice universally approved norms of immigration diplomacy that will help to know and identify the right of people in right manner. In the name of security the US should not boost the number of enemies. The US government should be very careful and realize that such ridiculous policy is also somehow helping the terrorist strategies who have been always acting to weaken and keep the US from global friendship.

I believe the Government of United States should rethink the current defective Immigration Diplomacy.

(Mr. Pushkar is a Peace, Security and Conflict Management Professional and Currently Works under the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Nepal, )

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