Visas for Debconf - Sorrow for our government's great history and current blindness
One of the most bitter and hardest tasks of running a large international conference such as Debconf 6 is the absurd process to ensure that every person interested in attending is able to do so. Before I start ranting, let me point you to a very well written text my father wrote about two years ago, out of a similar frustration after organizing the XXV International Colloquium on Group Theoretical Methods in Physics - On travelling to Scientific Meetings. Mexico is not a first world country, as you all know it (you didn’t know? Well, please take note). Mexico is not a country that gets heavy migration - quite to the contrary, it is a country from where masses of people live in the United States (seven to ten million). We should not fear migrants staying at our country and stealing our precious job sources. The countries Mexico requests visa for are mostly those at or under our economic level (i.e. most of South America) or those with infrequent travellers coming (i.e. most of Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa (of course, we have to make sure they don’t suddenly become tourists and give us more money). Were it not for the “intelligent borders” the USA government is demanding on ours as a precondition to walk towards a migratory agreement that could in the future legalize at least part of the Mexicans that live in the USA, it would be impossible for me to understand why does a situation like what we have experienced happen. We started, yes, the visa request process a bit late, due to some organization problems which should remain internal to the local organizing committee - However, we requested the visas for 25 people coming from Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Croacia, El Salvador, India, Perú and Russia with a process that started on March 25 - Well before May 5, where the first of them is scheduled to arrive. Of course, we knew the process would not be easy, but we were armed by the written assurement of a migration officer to my father assuring him the migration procedures would be vastly simplified during 2005. I will try to keep the story short. I cannot also speak the whole experience, as it was my wife together with the Nul-Unu people who had the burden of doing all this. Once you enter your request, it is impossible to track where it is - INM is a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. You cannot get any information by phone. When the papers were submitted, Nadezhda was told to come back in 10 days for getting the status update. Ten days later, she was told no information was yet available. Some days after that, she found the papers had been sent to Cuernavaca (Morelos state capital), where we should have presented them, because the conference is taking place in Oaxtepec, Morelos… No, they didn’t pay attention to the fact that we repeated over and over that the organization running the conference, AMESOL, was based on Mexico City. Ok, no big deal - We went to Cuernavaca so that the AMESOL president was interviewed on what the conference is about and why should we let all that people in our country, and demanding from him to accept personally the responsability of making sure each of them leaves the country as promised. Not only that, we had to go again because not all of the requests were sent the same day, and they belonged to different batches. They also asked the Oaxtepec people if the list of people had a room booked - of course, the hotel crew knew the group was coming, but not the list of individuals! But no reply yet. The office in Cuernavaca said they would fax the results back to Mexico the next day. That next day took almost two weeks. With the results already in Mexico, and with the help of some insiders we came in contact with thanks to different coincidences (I’m not giving any names or functions here, hope you understand), we finally got notice last Friday (April 28) that most visas were approved, but a handful (Bosnia, Bangladesh and Colombia) were held for national security reasons. At long last, yesterday (May 2) we told most of the group was approved, and got the magic authorization number with which they could go get their visas. Not all of them yet… I really hope the authorization can come on time, and we can get the rest of them here. At least it helped a bit that we as a committee invited them - Otherwise, people from poorer countries would have to show bank account statements assuring they have had an average of US$2000 in their savings account for at least one year - Impossible even for most Mexicans. But the story, incredibly, does not end here. Why didn’t I write about this before? Because I was just pissed off. Today, I am enraged. Not only you have to go through a stupidly long process to be awarded a visa. Once the visa is awarded, you have to pay its fees. The visa is expensive, more or less as expensive as the USA visa is for us - around US$40. But the visa is worth nothing without the FM3 migratory document - I knew the FM3 was used by foreigner residents. It’s basically a complete passport. A stupid, unnecessarily long document, where your entries and exits are recorded, where you should note your work place, etc. - All fine for a long-term resident… But we are being awarded limited one entry tourist visas. Oh, and by the way: An FM3 costs around US$100… So for the poorer countries, after being mistreated, ignored and degraded, you have to pay US$140, probably one whole fucking month of your salary just to get the needed permits?! We complain a lot on how the USA government does not respect Mexicans. Just this Monday, May 1st, there was a massive migrant movement in the USA, seconded in Mexico via an (symbolic, yes, but nevertheless true) one day long economic boycott against USA companies. Mexicans speak of the rights of our migrants, of the abuse that the USA authorities make… But we are unable to treat others with dignity, to welcome them as our country did for many decades. This makes me very sad. And very angry. I should have been writing information for you all to have a good and easy time when coming to Mexico, but that will have to be a bit later - I cannot just stay and stand this situation.
Liam M. Healy 2006-05-04 13:46:54
Re: Visas for Debconf - Sorrow for our government’s great histor
Your father is Kurt Bernardo Wolf - wow. I knew him in the late 80s. I gave a talk at his “Lie Methods in Optics” conference in Cocoyoc. It’s the only time I’ve been to Mexico.
Irrelevant to your blog, but I had to post.