April 25, 2011

It’s All Relative

Filed under: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 2:55 pm

Recently, in January, there was a big scandal in Norway regarding the deportation of a young Russian national back to Russia, as she was living in Norway as an illegal immigrant. The backlash was intense and the Norwegians were up in arms about the unjust treatment by the government of this young woman Amelie, who had lived in Norway for years illegally after going into hiding when her request for asylum was rejected in 2003. She managed to get her Master’s, and wrote a book on her experiences.

Deportation of anyone in Norway is seen, at least through the media lens, as victimization. It’s an embarrassment for such an “open”, “advanced” and “tolerant” nation. It was easy to sympathize with Maria Amelie and root for a reversal of the decision. She became the face of the faceless refugees who come to Norway’s shores for a better life. But I wonder if she would have had as much support and publicity if she had been a refugee in Russia? I am quite certain the answer is no.

At times I get a real impression that we live in a fish bowl, where we only see our own reality. Always on the inside looking out. I hear so many complaints from expats, immigrants, refugees and even concerned natives living and working in ie. Sweden (and the EU), Norway, and the U.S. (countries with which I am very familiar) about the bureaucracy, long waits, laws and regulations limiting their ability to gain residency or citizenship in said countries. I don’t mean to belittle the frustrations felt in the pursuit of belonging, a basic human need and, I believe, right. I too have had to wait in line, fill in paperwork and come under scrutiny for years in order to gain a residency or a citizenship I felt should be my birthright.

But when I read an article such as this one about the situation for foreigners in a country such as Saudi Arabia, I get angry. These are people who have lived for generations in the Kingdom. Can this be right? It is scarcely believable. In comparison, how can we possibly complain?! And Saudi Arabia is far from being unique in this. Look at the rules for Japan, Thailand, or even Russia. In comparison, getting residency in Scandinavia or the US is a walk in the park – on a sunny day, in spring! The rewards surely make the wait and the worry worthwhile.

I know that I could get unhappy responses from those who tried to go through the legal process (including my husband), who did nothing wrong and were still denied work, residency or citizenship for a seemingly random reason. I realize I am making a general point. But I hope you see it. I want you to be aware of what hoops others have to go through. As for Maria Amelie, she returned to Norway April 16th with a work permit, thanks to new legislation brought about by the uproar her case caused. Now THAT is democracy at work. And again, that is something we should be grateful for, and which the Indians and Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia can only dream of.