We have mentioned before that immigration are seemingly racist, we have also said that their attitude had improved somewhat over the last couple of years. Well it seems that was only in the department dealing with EU nationals, where a civilised veneer is now to be expected or people used to better treatment will complain.
An interesting event in a week where immigrations attitude and behaviour have been headline news in the local press.
I had invited an old friend of the family, who we had not seen for 20 years to visit us in Cyprus. He had visited us many years ago in the UK, where he was granted a visa on entry with no problem at all for 3 months.
He telephoned me from Delhi, where he had gone to apply for said visa at the beginning of December, hopefully to make it here in time for Christmas, or at least the New Years celebrations. Not to be.
He had been told that I needed to write an invitation letter and fax it to them along with a copy of my passport and ID card. This we duly did. Of course the fax machine did not work all the time and often had the no reply signal, so even this simple act took a couple of days!
Then in true Cypriot fashion we were told the next clue for this leg of our intrepid journey. We needed to fill in a form, the assumption of responsibility form, which had to be faxed also. That was then not quite right as it had to be stamped by the local Muhktar. I rushed to said Muhktar, the chap in the local perfume shop - simple ? no . He informed me that it needed stamps from the post office. Another 2 days to wait until Monday morning. This type of scenario continued on and on .... Then again, are we ready yet.. no - now we need to provide a bank guarantee to the tune of C£500, to be valid for 8 months, as he will be staying a whole 2 or 3 weeks.
Eventually I spoke to the embassy in Delhi, where a young man quizzed me and asked did I know this man personally- I replied that I did, he asked when I had last seen Rashid, I told him that it was about 20 years ago - I got the ' some friend' retort. I said that we had been messed about for almost a month and could he please expedite the matter and tell me ALL the other things they required, and could he also take a look at their fax machine as it was very unreliable.
As usual the haughty attitude works wonders here - it seems the ruder you are, the more you are respected as this must mean something !
OK we did the bank guarantee, stamps and all it is now January the 13th - Rashid phoned me to say that he would be arriving on the 16th January at 6pm. Success at last!
I checked at the airport, there was a flight from Amman at 6.20 so on Monday evening I put on a roast chicken and hot footed it up to the airport, asking my 14 year old son to keep an eye on the dinner and to answer the phone. Both my kids were looking forward to meeting this blast from our past from the exotic and dangerous country of Kashmir.
I waited outside the airport, and 10 minutes later my son called me on my mobile - ' I just got a call from a strange man, who wanted to know what nationality I am.. he asked for Yianni, I told him there is no Yianni here.'
I thought, silly sods, they can't ever repeat my name right - Yiannoulla is the local translation but I am called all sorts. Jayne is not a Cypriot name, so it whittles down to Yen, Yennie, Yayne, Jan,Jean - and now this - Yanni. (A Cypriot boy's name)
I phoned the immigration at the airport and spoke to a youngish man with attitude who asked when I had last seen Rashid, I told him that it was about 20 years ago - again I got the ' some friend' retort. He then said that another man was dealing with ' this case' and that he had stepped out of the office, and could I call again in 10 minutes. I told him that I was standing outside in the cold, that my dinner was now burning and who did I need to speak to. he gave me Michalis' number. I phoned said Michalis, who had great difficulty in repeating my name. After a couple of quick lessons in frenetics, after which he still didn't get it right, he told me that my friend was being refused entry. He said he was waiting for a call from Nicosia and to call back in 10 minutes.
I called my step father who called Michalis and told him that he would stand surety, guarantee or whatever they wanted, that he knew Rashid personally and that he was a friend of the family. He said ' he is in the plane - we are sending him back'. (Further enquiry with a friend of his in the immigration service revealed that the official reason would be ' they were afraid he would ask for political asylum'.
Poor Rashid then spent 3 days in the transit lounge at Amman airport, where he was treated as a deportee, was not allowed to have a hotel room, a wash or a proper sleep.
I wrote a letter to Mrs Shakalis the next morning, the chief of immigration 'service' in Nicosia which said;
I then phoned the immigration dept non stop for 2 days. I managed to speak to someone 3 times, because they never answer the phone. Try it. 22 804401 That is the number of the secretary to Mrs Shakalis, the only person apparently with the power to help, If you are lucky her secretary may answer it between 9 and 10 am.
I was told to wait. When I asked for how long, I was told ' some days'.
I am still waiting as I write this. It is Friday! - 4 days - weekend - 7 days minimum - We shall see when we get a reply - if ever.
Meanwhile Rashid caught a connecting flight back to Delhi. I spoke to him whilst he was still waiting in the transit lounge in Amman, he said ' thanks for everything. I will phone you when I get back to Kashmir' Because he had been ' deported' from Cyprus, his treatment by the Royal Jordanian staff at Amman was disgraceful - if I didn't know better I would think that they had been taking lessons from some of the Cyprus Airways ground crew at Larnaca airport in customer disservice and nastiness. I have a taped conversation that beggars belief and certainly competes with the video I have of a certain 'unamable supervisor' who's story will be told next.
Did you ever feel really guilty and like a very bad host - six weeks of inconvenience culminating in a humiliating and uncomfortable experience, followed by a trip back to the Himalayas, in winter, a cold winter where they certainly had their share of disaster this year already.
He phoned me from Delhi Airport on arrival to say thank
you for my hospitality!
It is now 2 months later and we are still awaiting a reply
from Mrs Shakalis !