Discriminated for being an 'Ethiopian Origin ' in Ethiopia
Abraham G. Haylu
May 03, 2011
It was one of those days .I just jumped off my coach and said enough is enough time to go back home . My wife stared at me in surprise and puzzled by what I said. First, she thought I was speaking to my self and tried to ignore me. Then she said that is it? Going for good. Yes that is it, I am done here. I replied.
well, first things first ,she said, we need a roof over our head then see what and where to invest after that I am glad with that idea .in short we agreed and there I bound to Ethiopia.
The Immigration officer at Bole International airport punched my passport for Twenty bucks. Got my visa looked at it and it was for only a month stay.
I said mom!! I am staying for two months here and you didnít even ask me for how long I am here? It doesnít matter she replied. We only give for one month visa. Is it a new policy to everyone? I asked. There was silence, not a glance. Not even yes or no. I kind of frustrated and didnít know what to say.
After a little pause, he said you have to renew that after the expiry date. I am going to Tigray; do I have to come back from there to Addis for that? I asked. No she said, there is an Immigration office in Mekelle, go there and they will renew it for you. Sorry I didnít know that .I said no problem. Thanks a million off me went.
I enjoyed my stay in Tigray close to a month. Then Time to go to Immigration office for renewal for another month. Sir, said the officer, I am sorry tell you this But we donít have the authority to renew foreign visa. My jaw dropped and said nothing for a moment. He apologized again. NO! NO! I said you donít have to apologize for a mistake that is not yours please. Just tell me what to do now before you throw me out of the country. Go to Addis. He answered it politely. I left his office and headed to air ticket office. Got my two-way ticket and flew to Addis the next day. Bole again.
For those of you who never been to or around the immigration office in Addis, it was hard to believe the line up I saw .it was about four hundred meters long. It really was unfortunate to see that. Thank God, I didnít have to go through that line. Mine was just renewal. That simple. Twenty of us were there early in the morning .no number no nothing but I appreciate the staffs in the first step. They handled it well. I have witnessed those employees helping people in their office, on the hall and aisles .answering their questions and concerns. I gave kudos but didnít mean all.
Next stop was on the door step of another office where the visa information taken from us. We were waiting for hours. There started a problem. First as I said, no number given, that means no body cares who comes first and who is last. Second nobody was called for hours, and then we got tired. I saw people start rolling their eyes in disbelief. Third, we saw employees were staring on their screen. God knows who does what but nobody was called in up until noon and nobody told us why. I went in and asked one female employee. She said o ya!! We are waiting for the system. I asked what system are talking about I see your system is on. Not that, she replied, the system for the processing your files has to come from the bosses up there .I see then I understand the staffs frustration. They have no control on that. Some one Ďup thereí has to press the button. How stupid is that. Just imagine if Mr. Boss, by any chance, couldnít make it to the office .I donít get it they might have their own way to explain that. Anyways it took only five minute to process my case after waiting six hours.
Next day we all have to go back to immigration office to get our renewed visa. There we go again same if not more line ups. Our appointment was for 10:00AM for a pick up. We went to a different office where we were told to go .the staffs here looked tired early in the morning. Some got their pass port others have to wait more. We sat in the office. I am not a psychologist but I can tell they hate to see us there. Out! Out! A female staff yelled. what I still donít understand is who are those chairs for in that office and if she doesnít want us there, couldnít she tell us to wait out in a polite manner. We were people who happen to go there for a reason, to get service. everybody was shaking his head with hopelessness @11:00AM,a professor from Pakistan , I and two British accent girls went back to the office to ask any change? Obviously the answer was out! Out! I looked at my watch I had one more hour to be at the airport. I was chatting with other people when I saw those two white girls gave high five each other and smiling. I excuse my self and asked them how on earth they got their passport. Simple they said, we went to that room he is an officer to help foreign nationals with any case and he called here and in no time we got it just like that. Go, Go, he will help you and good luck.
I walked to that office knock on the door got in and sat there until he is done with phone. At that point I was blaming my self that I should be here in the fist place. Thank God I got the right person. His name is Ato Solomon. Forgot his last name. Anyways he hangs his phone up and looked at me .no question asked.
I started how the mess had happened first thing at the airport a month agoÖato Solomon didnít want to listen that and interrupted me and said if you want. Your process to get right away forgets it. I still thought ato Solomon didnít understand what I was trying to tell him. I said, Sir it was your employee at the airport who got me in to this mess, I was told to go there for renewal where no authorization ÖI came from Tigray for.., a couple knock the door and came in .it seems ato Solomon knew those people, he forgot me completely and listen to them then he called foreign affairs office .I stood in his office for half an hour and after finishing their case he turned his face and said no means no.
As a remainder I tried to mention to Ato Solomon that the two white girls he helped them like half an hour ago got their passport. They sent me to you here. He got mad that I told him that and right away he raised his voice told me to leave his office. Then I knew I was talking to a brick wall but want to let him now one last word. I said donít you know our case is the same except they are White and I am black skinned? Is that what it is? Donít you know I have the right like anybody else get the service here? I told him that I canít get my skin inside out for this and this is nothing but pure discrimination. All of a sudden my tears got out down my chicks. I really was hurt and angry. He pointed his finger to the door. I know what it means. I left his office.
In a foreign land, on many occasions I was discriminated for being dark skinned. I have been called the ĎNí word and on and on .I am not going in to that now for that matter, I was not expecting a bureaucrat like Ato Solomon to give me a hug and tap on my back but never ever thought in a million years to be discriminated of my being Ethiopian origin for a white European girls in Ethiopia by an Ethiopian.
I left my country Ethiopia some twenty five years ago at a time where the Derg regime changed Ethiopia to hell on earth. At a time when socialism was inflated falsely. It is still fresh in my mind like it was yesterday that the securities, immigrations, police and the military held the country by the throat.
Like any Tigrean I was imprisoned, tortured and held for a couple of years. If it was not for the heroes of the TPLF commandos, one hundred Ninety seven of us would have been slaughtered in the first round and would keep to other rounds. I canít thank them enough for those GEGNA Agassi operation martyrs. They were really amazing fighters. They changed our desperations into hope. We came to life again. Thousands gave their precious life for the peace that all Ethiopians are enjoying now. Isnít that ironic and absolutely pathetic to see those corrupt and subversive bureaucrats?
Ato Solomon seems to have a top notch job and got nothing to say but NO and GET OUT OF MY OFFICE. I donít hesitate for a moment that he forgot the office was for the public to get service. That was unfair and unjust. Do I need to know why he did that to me??? No I donít. Because that was least of my worries. But, if he keeps doing that I can imagine how many things got turn and twisted. I believe and it is true the airport and the immigration office are the gateway to the world. That is where Ethiopiaís image reflects and that should be where civilization starts. Treat everyone equal. I still love my Ethiopia. I still love my people. I still love to get back to my beloved country.
Can be reached at Ahaylu@shaw.ca