A Colombian national living in London and working there in a high position was supposed to attend an important conference in Spain two weeks ago. She applied for a Schengen-visa to enter Spain. It was denied to her twice. Spain, now facing high numbers of unemployment, is afraid of letting migrants in – well, al least those coming from poor countries, no matter what their educational or career background is. In the end the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, managed getting a tourist Schengen-visa for Italy, and then traveled to Spain to attend the conference. Because of all the trouble, she was afraid she might even lose her job in London.
Wealthy states want to protect their economic interests, so a passport is actually much more than an identity card – it’s a document that helps states organize themselves economically. Human beings are seen as economic agents. This is why, according to an index compiled annually by the law firm Hanley & Partners, Danes and Finns can travel visa free to almost every country in the world. In contrast, citizens from Iraq, Egypt or Thailand have to fill in forms and undergo a number of bureaucratic steps, if they wish to travel. So, it is according to this economical logic that in the current financial crisis of the European Union, people are denied visas without further explanation. This is a clear violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The unjust system of passports and the concept of nation that is lived out by national passports diverges strongly from our globalised life style: mass tourism, open borders in the European Union, families that are more and more heterogeneous, etc. But the possibility to live the global world seems to be the reality of just one part of the society, in great part due to our current system of national passports. Have you ever asked yourself if this is a just and fair system?
Imagine a binational couple – a European husband, let’s say German, with his Mexican wife and binational child standing at the airport re-entering Europe from a trip to Mexico. The German father and his child go through “Europeans” counter, but his wife has to wait in the long line of “all other nations”. The passport check here takes much longer of course. This is discrimination on grounds of nationality and takes place everyday at any airport in this world.
Remember the signs in South Africa during the apartheid era? “Europeans only”, “Whites only” etc. In our airports very similar signs (“EU citizens only” – “All other States”) still exist.
Violating freedom of movement on grounds of nationality is also violating Article 1 of the UDHR, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, and subsequently violating many other basic rights.
Author: Josephine Landertinger Forero
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.