Enya and the Art of Sucking Up to Immigration Officers

On the one hand, the journalist in Africa need never take no for an answer: There is almost always a way into or way out of anything. On the other, no is frequently the first answer. Take a recent experience trying to obtain a visa for travel to a country which shall remain nameless.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER (IO): No. This is not possible. We do not issue visas for journalists. Certainly not for travel tomorrow. Maybe in six months.

JOURNALIST (ME): Oh dear, this is a problem.

IO: And anyway, what is it with western journalists? You come in here, ask for a visa, go to my country and write bad things about it. This makes my life very difficult. My boss, he asks me why are you giving visas to people who only want to write bad things? Journalists only want bad stories. This is not the way you should do your job. I cannot give you a visa. It would get me into trouble. Anyway why do western journalists always do this?

ME (having been briefed to expect just such a tirade): Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that this has happened. Not all journalists do this (weakly).

IO: You see I saw the BBC. They go to Sierra Leone to cover Mr Blair’s visit and what do they do? They hardly mention Mr Blair. They just talk about all the problems in the country. This is not right. What about all the good things? These they do not mention.

ME: (a sort of tut tut sound) Oh dear. This is not the way to do things.

IO: The journalist should be fair and balanced. But this does not happen. Western journalists only want to write bad things about Africa – war, famine, corruption. These are the only stories you write….

This continues in the same vein for approximately 20 minutes

IO: And the British media are the worst… you are British?

ME (sensing moment to play trump card): Actually no. I’m Irish (delivered in solid grammar-school educated, south-east of England accent while sliding Irish passport across desk).

IO: Anyway, all western journalists are the same…. (pause) You know my favourite musician is Irish.

ME: Oh yes? Who is that?

IO: Enya

ME: Ahh yes. I love the way she fuses traditional Irish airs with modern technology to produce a completely new sound.

IO: Yes, yes. You know her music. It’s really wonderful.

ME: So, erm, what do you think I should do about that visa?

IO: Oh, here you go. I’ve just written it out. Six months multiple entry, OK?

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