Saturday, 20 March 2004

Emigres defend adopted homeland

HORNET’S NEST. When I wrote last week about the apparent inconsistency of collective Western policy toward eradicating all forms of discrimination from their societies, I did not realize the hornet’s nest I was about to stir.

Upon returning from office in the evening to check my personal mailbox, there waiting for me were a number of reactions from our readers.

All of them focused on the issue of immigration, which I had used as a specific example of what I call systematic discrimination.

Opinions were divided between those who were “victimized” by many Western embassies’ denial of visitor visa applications —some merely on the suspicion that the applicant has no intention of ever coming back home—and those who succeeded in immigrating, and have integrated themselves into Western society.

The former lot agreed with me, recounting their horror stories with strict consular officers dispensing their own brand of “deny first, ask questions later” justice.

Most emigres were of the contrary opinion, taking the side of their adopted homelands in saying that because immigration has become a heavy burden to the West, it is right to impose strict policies to stem the human tide.

THE POINT. The fact is I was drawing no conclusions, but merely stating well-known facts. And immigration was not even the central theme of the piece, merely a convenient and well-known illustration to support my point.

And my point was?

A country works hard at eradicating all forms of discrimination inside its borders, creating catchy slogans like “one country, many cultures,” “melting pot,” “cultural mosaic,” and every other synonym of the word integration that one could think of.

To back up their efforts, they sprout billboards and posters all over the place, bearing pictures of happy faces with all the colors of the rainbow you could imagine. And they expect the majority of their citizens to embrace their minority countrymen.

But hold on one second. The majority citizens they are trying to educate also read the papers and listen to the news. And there they see the debates about immigration policy, interspersed with pictures of would-be immigrants being turned away at their borders and ports of entry.

The faces of those being turned away, do they not resemble many of those with the happy smiles up on the anti-discrimination billboards? Oh silly me, of course they do!

This creates just a little bit of complication for our audience, does it not?

Okay, the happy face is a legal alien, the unhappy one being led away is an illegal immigrant. The distinction should be clear enough, shouldn’t it? Everyone ought to know that, right? Yeah right.

DISTINCTION. Racist white trash roaming the streets at night in poor and run-down housing estates are very conscious of this distinction.

Before they beat up their next colored victim, they ask him first for his British passport, and if he has one, they let him go away. But if the unfortunate bloke happens to whip out one from the Caribbean, then he may not be so lucky! Really, this is how they operate.

Okay, that’s an extreme example.

How about the olive-skinned MBA who comes in for an interview at an investment bank in the city? Why he looks like the guy stepping off the refugee boat from the Mediterranean as well, does he not? Could he really do this job? Is he good enough? Hmmm… Let me think.

Even to the most discerning and intelligent among us, the situation poses not a few complications. And let’s face it, the majority of us are not really that intelligent and discerning.

And that includes the countless consular officers in many of our Western embassies all over the world.

Published in Sun Star Daily, Saturday, March 20, 2004 (

Saturday, 13 March 2004


DISCRIMINATION. Last week I attended a seminar held by a leading UK law firm on the subject of new European Union legislation governing the issue of discrimination in the workplace.

The stricter laws, coming into effect from 2004-2006, tighten the already stringent anti-discrimination measures in place today, and would place Europe closer to the United States, which is currently ahead in protecting the rights of its minority and disadvantaged groups.

Along with disallowing employment selection based on nationality, race, religion or gender—the new laws also seek to do away with what is today still a common criterion for screening out applications—age.

From 2006 when these laws finally take effect, it may not be uncommon for us to see 50-year-old flight attendants, along with lady bus drivers and openly homosexual combat soldiers. The conduct of colleagues at work will be curtailed to exclude even the common green jokes that are today the main feature of water-cooler breaks in most offices.

Europe and the rest of the West, at least on paper, are preparing for what it sees as a “color, race, nationality, gender, age and disability” neutral society.

The intentions are admirable, but the realities are far from the stated intentions. The gaps are apparent in their policies toward immigration.

VISA DENIED. Take the recent case of my wife’s sister-in-law, who applied for a visa to visit her sister in Canada.

A mother of four, she is a qualified nurse who has not practiced her profession for some time, to devote herself to taking care of her young family.

Their circumstances are by no means meager—my brother-in-law is a fairly successful agri-businessman, and she has no intention of leaving for Canada as an economic migrant. But did the immigration authorities share the same view? No chance.

Without so much as giving her a minute to explain the purpose of her visit, her own economic and family circumstances, and her intention to return, the consular officer immediately denied her application.

The reason? She has “no compelling reason” to come back to the Philippines, and from all indications, would stay on and practice her profession in Canada.

Had she been of European origin, the outcome would surely have been different.

Canada is not alone in this clearly discriminatory method of granting visitation rights to their countries. The United States and the European Union are equally guilty of denying visitor applications on the mere suspicion that someone may have a reason—however improbable—of staying on beyond the allowed period.

All this while they are enacting laws to end all forms of discrimination in their borders, similar to the proposals discussed in the seminar I attended.

The reasons behind their draconian immigration policies are clear—no country wants to be burdened by masses of immigrants taking work away from their own nationals. And because permission to visit a country is a privilege that is up to a state to grant or deny, no laws are broken by their strict policies.

But these same policies appear to create a two-faced image of the West to the world.

For how can a country that promises to look beyond race, color, ethnic origin, religion and gender, in the same breath turn away well-intentioned visitors to their countries, just because based on the same characteristics they promise not to discriminate against, there is some probability that they may stay on?

Published in Sun Star Daily, Saturday, March 13, 2004 (