In a World Obsessed with Passport Tiers, Citizenship Is Personal and Political

first_imgLate last week, I was informed that I would not be able to travel to Dubai for an important meeting scheduled months ago.Like other countries across the globe, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) halted travel for those with Guinean, Liberian, and Sierra Leonean passports during the height of the Ebola outbreak. It has not lifted these restrictions.The miniature red suitcase I had packed lay abandoned on my wooden floor. I caressed my dark green Liberian passport as if to reassure this inanimate marker of identity that my citizenship was not on trial here.The specter of Ebola had simply triumphed over reason.Yet, the irony of this episode hasn’t escaped me. Dubai is a hub for cross continental travel. In 2013 alone, the UAE boasted the fifth largest international migrant pool in the world—hosting 7.8 million foreign residents out of a total population of 9.2 million. Furthermore, foreign labor migrants account for 90 percent of the country’s private workforce, mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.Unlike the US and UK, where anti-immigrant sentiments have reached fever pitch, the UAE seems more pliant to international travelers. So, naturally, I thought it was odd when I attempted to complete the online visa form and Liberia was not listed as an option for ‘present nationality’. Nor were Guinea and Sierra Leone.This was punishment for simply being born in Africa with a particular African passport. Even the organizers of the meeting were shocked, disbelief sprinkled in their conciliatory e-mails and phone calls. All diplomatic channels had proved futile. The verdict was irreversible. I would not be getting on that plush Emirates flight.Never mind that Liberia was declared Ebola-free on May 9, exactly one month ago.Never mind that I have not been to my homeland in over 10 months. Nor was I asked about recent travel there.Never mind that my country and its people are slowly trying to recover from an invisible foe that killed nearly 5,000 and infected about 11,000.In the past year, I’ve seen my passport scrutinized more intently than ever before, but the UAE blanket bias felt like adding salt to a fresh wound.At first, I experienced blinding rage with a touch of indignation. The kind that gurgles in the pit of your gut, and then explodes.Then I was amused by the absurdity of it all. If I were traveling directly from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone and had a passport from a country on UAE’s list of exemptions, I would have gotten a visa on arrival with ease. No questions asked.Mild acceptance slowly seeped in, reminding me that we maintain immigration hierarchies as a form of erasure and silencing. In our obsession with citizenship tiers, west is best. North trumps South. And white is inevitably right.Never mind black/brown solidarity. Or does that even exist?I have shied away from returning home fearing the kind of immobility that sees people not as complex beings but as nameless, faceless ‘threats’ to national security. A sedentarist kind of metaphysic that keeps certain people in their place.People like me.Truth be told, the natural human compulsion for mobility is currently under threat because of irrational immigration bans such as the UAE’s.For all the rhetoric about globalization’s free flow of ideas, capital and technology, the world remains obsessed with restricting the movement of people who don’t fit into our neat boxes of what is tolerable or even desirable. The UAE saga is a microcosm of a larger debate about the need for immigration reforms worldwide.The scapegoating of migrants across the globe deflects attention from the fact that most countries have failed to improve the quality of life of their domestic citizens. Afro-fobic attacks in South Africa, Australia’s Pacific Solution, and the plight of Rohingya Muslims off the coast of Indonesia are extreme examples. Immigration is framed as a zero sum game, with finite rights and resources available to a select few.I watch migrants who look like me risk their lives on sardine-packed, rickety boats to cross the Mediterranean, and know intuitively that they wouldn’t flee if they had a choice. With each desperate attempt to cross over, what they are effectively saying is that Europe must make amends for waging unjustifiable wars and supporting authoritarian regimes in some of their countries of origin.Centuries ago, Africans were so eager to escape lives of bondage, some dove to sudden death in the Atlantic. They were the first forced migrants I can recall. Now, many of us travel across these same waters for short-, medium- and long-term trips. Not because of some deep, abiding love for life abroad, but because it gives us a measure of flexibility. It keeps us physically connected to the rest of the world.And for someone like me with chronic wanderlust, the ability to travel unencumbered is almost as necessary as oxygen itself.Although a self-professed transnational, I used to be suspicious of Liberians who changed their nationality out of convenience. But after interviewing more than 200 of us across five urban centers in West Africa, North America and Europe for my doctoral thesis on citizenship construction and practice, I have become more empathetic. Many of us make the switch because of the access so easily denied me by the UAE.But we shouldn’t have to.I can’t say I would ever consider exchanging my passport for another, especially since Liberia prohibits dual citizenship. Yet, the UAE debacle has shaken me to the core. It’s made me acutely aware that citizenship is both personal and political.Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author based at SOAS, University of London.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

High Court hears claims that man involved in ‘arranged accident’ in Donegal

first_imgA man has denied in the High Court he was involved in an “arranged road traffic accident” at a roundabout in Lifford.Martin Lafferty (55), from Clady in Strabane, sued the driver of a rented car, as well as Hertz Rent-a-Car itself, for injuries arising out of a collision with his Peugeot 406 at a roundabout in Lifford on June 28, 2011. Mr Lafferty was driving with three other people in his vehicle while the other car, driven by Gareth Feeney, with addresses in Strabane and Middlesex, England, had a total of five people in it.Seven out of the nine, including Mr Lafferty were awarded sums of less than €10,000 in Buncrana Circuit Court in 2015 for injuries from the accident.The Irish Independent reports that Hertz, which is owned by Ryans Investments NI Ltd, appealed those awards to the High Court.In evidence, Mr Lafferty said he was on his way to check on his cattle when Mr Feeney’s hired Ford Fiesta approached the roundabout but failed to stop and hit his car.His car was not driveable afterwards because of the damage while the Fiesta could be driven.The court heard a garda who arrived at the scene saw extensive damage to the rear passenger side of the Peugeot and some damage to the front of the Fiesta.Under cross examination by Joseph McGettigan SC, for Ryans/Hertz, Mr Lafferty said he had been involved in three other road traffic accidents in the last 14 or 15 years, including one which was settled and one he is still pursuing.He was also injured in 1993 when he was shot by a British soldier in Newtownards.His father was Neil Lafferty who was in charge of the west Tyrone brigade of the IRA and who died in Long Kesh prison.He agreed he was the person carrying a tri-colour at the head of a commemoration march by the “Joseph Plunkett 1916 Society” – which commemorates the IRA dead – in November 2011, a few months after the accident in which he claimed he suffered pain in his head and right shoulder.He said he was the leader of that society but disagreed that carrying the flag was difficult with his injuries. He disagreed it was more difficult that the act of trying to turn the steering wheel on his van which he said he had difficulty doing after the accident.He said all the people in his car were members of the Joseph Plunkett Society while one of them in the other car had just attended a commemoration ceremony and was a member of another similar group called the Charlie Darcy 1916 Society.Mr McGettigan put it to him this was “an arranged accident between you and Mr Feeney” and that he had been in touch with Mr Feeney over it.He replied: “That is a very serious allegation and it is untrue”.Mr McGettigan said when Mr Feeney arrived at the Hertz office in Derry to return the car, he did not have Mr Lafferty’s details.He was able to immediately ring him (Lafferty) and the first thing he said was “How’re ya Marty”.Mr Lafferty said he has never been called Marty in his life and could not remember any such phone call but knew he must have provided his details to Mr Feeney.He also denied he knew Mr Feeney except to see from him coming into a night club in Strabane where he had worked for 12 years.The case continues before Mr Justice Charles Meenan.High Court hears claims that man involved in ‘arranged accident’ in Donegal was last modified: July 19th, 2017 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:accidentcrashdonegalLiffordMartin Laffertystrabanelast_img read more