Borders Are Imaginary Lines, People Are Flesh and Bone
For the records: I'm a Turkish woman who has literally gone around the world three times and who has been to more than a 110 UN countries on a Turkish passport. I'm telling this only for you to understand where I am coming from. And that's not to mean the place I was born, but what I have been through with visas to travel all these countries. I've had my share of humiliation and I've found it against human dignity to be asked for so much stuff (to get a visa) in order to go some place on the world I was born, just because where I was born on it. I was made to jump endless meaningless hoops, I was made to go around like a rat in a maze. Now I have double citizenship. I'm Turkish by birth, Italian by marriage. My origin covers the Muslim countries that do not like or want the "Westerners." Plus, I married someone born in a privileged spot in the world, my EU passport covers the rest. I no longer need to jump through so many hoops anymore, I am pretty much covered around the world. But this is not about me; things need to change for every human being!
Countries, borders, nations, nationalism, passports, visas, citizenship, security and controls, plus money... None of these topics stand on its own in a vacuum; they are all interrelated, intertwined with each other. I started writing about these issues long before the "migration crisis" started. This new development led me to further develop my ideas. My ideas didn't change, they took a new dimension. Reading articles, debates, comments on immigration, I kept adding more to my arguments.
To me, the crux of the matter never changed. And I came to notice one thing. One thing that most people overlook or never go into on the debate on migration. They seem to think as if visas and opening borders are only about people coming to America or Europe. Some see as if that's the whole world. As if there is no movement in any other direction...
Alex Andreou, a Greek journalist living in England was recounting a joke he heard:
"I don't get what the fuss about immigration is... you know... All my neighbors are English, all the kids in the school are English, all the shops are run by English people... I love it here in Spain!”
It's a joke but there is a lot of truth in it, just like Chinese Quarters, Little Italys, there are places in the world that look like English or German villages. And there are many people moving around for business reasons or travelling or just retiring overseas. (That's why there are so many “Best places to retire” lists on the Internet.) But of course these are not immigrants. Even the word they use for themselves is different, they are expats. Immigrants are the poors.
I cannot understand how people, well-educated and well-meaning people do not see the irrationality of categorizing, bunching together people according to the geographic area that they have happenchance been born in.
Back in 2001, when I was to go to Tanzania, I thought we (the Turkish) did not need a visa to go there. Then I learnt that recently things had changed. Because there was a bombing in some embassy in Tanzania and allegedly a Turkish was involved in the case. So... One guy did something bad and millions need to pay a price. Let's suspect all the people who happened to be born within the same imaginary boundary as that man. "From the baby in the cradle to the 80 year-old ladies, all people born within the same imaginary line as that bad guy are suspects from now on!" goes the firman. Yeah, right. Sounds pretty rational to me! (Note: This is a sarcastic remark. In case anybody out there gets it as if I am saying it literally is rational.)
Visas are political guns that governments can conveniently pull out whenever it suits their agenda. (The most recent example: The introduction of visas for the Turkish to go to Russia.)
Visas are not a deterrent for criminals as some people believe. Criminals have ways to work in and out and around such things. All visa applications ask for your outward-bound flight and hotel reservations. This is just useless paperwork for both the applicant and the processor. If anybody has the intention of staying in a country, s/he pays for a return ticket and does not return. Simple. That's why they say most of the “illegal” immigration is of people who enter a country legally and overstay their visa. Coming to the illegality... I would like everybody to keep in mind that the definition of "illegal" changes over time. Man-made laws are not like natural laws. They're not written in stone or by a higher authority above mankind. There are many things that were legal once upon a time, which we cannot think of accepting today. And you can be sure there will be many legal things today that the future generations will look upon horrified. I believe that visas, blocking people from moving across some imaginary line will be one of those things.
People arguing for open borders argue on economic grounds (“Migrants help the economy”), on religious grounds (“What would Jesus say?”), on compassion (maximizing the welfare of the poor), on utilitarian (benefiting the most people) etc. I would add “logic” to that too. As the example of Moroccans and Spain shows. Migration Researcher, Professor of Sociology Hein de Haas says, in the past, when Moroccans did not need a visa, they would go to Spain for seasonal work and then go back home. After all, home is home. But after visas were introduced in the early 1990's, people stayed put instead of returning home.
All of these arguments have a point... However, there are also counter-arguments to these and some people doubt their validity. So... What is the crux of the matter? What is the one main unarguable, undeniable reason for removing the need for visas and letting people roam the world they were born on freely? Is there such a reason? Yes, there is. And that is the injustice and unfairness of discriminating people according to the imaginary line they were born in, that imaginary line which was drawn by either a literally bloody war or by metaphorically bloody politics.
I understand, there are problems that surface when faced with a huge influx of people who have different views and understanding of life. And I agree that those need to be dealt with and addressed by politicians at this moment. However, we, as the human race, need to get over this worldwide acceptance of blatant discrimination of people according to where they were born.
There is a high cost of border controls. A human cost on the side of the migrants, a monetary cost on the side of people trying to move AND on the side of those trying to block people from moving. Money... You may say it is worth it to block people. I would not agree. Money... You may say it is just money. That I might agree even though I'm sure if it was spent wisely, the world would be a much more pleasant and safer place to live in. As for the human cost... There are worse atrocities being committed in the world today. So some people might not be bothered that much about this cost. But visas and borders represent something that is at the core of many of the conflicts. Nations and countries, nationalism... Discrimination of people according to where they were born, hating people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, declaring war upon people as a group. This needs to change. It definitely needs to! Won't be happening overnight. So another seed urgently needs to be planted in the minds of the new generations: It is incredibly and unacceptably unfair and unjust to group and then discriminate people according to an imaginary line that was drawn by either a literally bloody war or by metaphorically bloody politics. I'm sorry I repeat some phrases over and over again in these pages but I believe they need to stick.
Some claim a country, a land as their own. And see others as guests. It's time to see that the planet belongs to us all and that WE ARE ALL GUESTS ON THIS PLANET. The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. Even though the contemporary political world order has turned it into this... The Earth is not a place to be parceled into countries and forbidden to people who themselves, their parents or spouses have not been born there or let in on conditions. It is a land as a whole, to be lived and traveled on for some time and then buried under.