Today I spent seven hours on the phone to three pastors in Nepal. They had been stopped by an airline from flying and sent back to Nepal. I knew too well what the problem was: they were poor Nepalese from the mountains traveling outside their mountains into the bigger world.
You may wonder, ‘what could be wrong with that?’ For most American’s and readers of this blog you will not be able to relate, but if you happen to be a person from an “obscure” nation you know all too well what happened. Let me explain:
Three Nepalese pastors from remote Eastern Nepal were traveling to Cambodia to learn how to multiply their ministry with Antioch Institute. Two had never left Nepal before and one had previously been to Cambodia. Cambodia does not require a visa for Nepalese to enter Cambodia; but the Kathmandu Airport does! So, we had to buy advanced visas for all three travelers. This is an extra expense that those from the developed countries would not have to pay.
Secondly, they had to transit for a few hours in Bangkok, Thailand. So, they had to get an additional transit visa for Thailand. This is also an extra expense and three days of waiting for the Thai embassy to process their visas. Westerners do not need to bother with the inconvenience. Tickets were purchased months in advance. The airlines (Jet Airways) also required that they put up a “travel guarantee” to show they have enough money to travel when they arrive in the final destination.
There are usually no direct flights between poor countries, only rich ones, so even though Kathmandu, Nepal is only four hours flight time from Cambodia, they have to take four different flights over two days! (This is another inconvenience that Western nations know little about.) Two visas in hand, a letter of guarantee from Antioch Institute, and their bank showing they have money to travel, they were excited to board their first flight. Leaving Nepal, the immigration questioned them, but eventually let them pass with a firm stamp in their passport.
They arrived in New Delhi, India to transit to their next flight. But the airlines (Jet Airways) stopped them. They told them they could not proceed because the flight from Nepal to India was classified as a domestic flight even though it was between two sovereign nations. Therefore, they had been stamped “out” of Nepal, so that meant they were illegally “in” India because they were at the domestic airport. Sound crazy? Yep, it is. Here is where an American would get in someone’s face and demand his “rights”. After a brief delay, they would likely be on their way.
What happened? Jet Airways made them sit on the floor. They gave them no food or water for 15 hours. The airlines then sent them back to Nepal, even though all their documents, visas, and tickets were in order. Only when they arrived back in Nepal 15 hours later did they get a drink of water!
The end of the story: injustice! That’s it. That’s where it stops. They are out $900 each, weeks of time, coupled with humiliation and exhaustion.
And in much of the world this is just normal.
How do I know? My wife holds a Cambodian passport. At least 50% of the countries I get invited to visit she cannot go to. We spent 3 months applying for a visa to Turkey. They never bothered to answer. Israel took ten days and two rejections. South Korea, rejected twice. America, rejected once. Australia, rejected a whopping five times! We had to travel 4,000 miles to apply for her to go to Mozambique. Ethiopia took six months and government intervention. Why would the wife of an American who whisks in and out of more than 40 countries be treated so harshly? Because who ever heard of little “obscure” Cambodia.
The worst time for us was when my wife and I were going to go on a Safari in Africa for our 12th wedding anniversary. She couldn’t get a visa for Turkey (another tour we were going on) so, I flew first to Turkey on Emirates Airlines and flew to Dubai to meet here on the connecting flight. We had worked on her visa to Africa six months in advance. It costs us hundreds of dollars to get the visa. The flight was more than $2,000. My wife flew from Cambodia to Bangkok where Emirates Airlines stopped her. They questioned her visa to Africa. They had never seen one before, so they wanted her to get a letter from the Ethiopian government to verify that her visa was genuine. Really? So, what branch of the Ethiopian Government verifies visas? It was a ridiculous request. The real reason was that she was a Cambodian.
After I filed complaint after complaint with Emirates Airlines and they finally let her fly. No additional documentation required. It cost us more than $900, humiliation, exhaustion and we spent 3 less days together on our wedding anniversary. Injustice abounds in the world. The airline has refused any compensation because they said stopping my wife was a “security precaution”. It’s called: “INJUSTICE”.
That’s it. There is no happy ending. Many people who just happened to be born in “obscure” countries just face injustice because of where they were born. Injustice is normal in most of the world.