JSalloum on 11 Sep 2000 05:01:58 -0000

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<nettime> immigration/border crossings/frontiers

A view from Canada related to the discussion about Ars Electronica, and 
Austrian and other European policies and practises regarding  immigration and 
asylum seekers. Immigration policy in Canada is very strict and even more so 
depending on the less 'European' you are or look.  Canada's practises are 
very close to the Austrians' in fact, especially regarding the length and 
conditions of 'dentention pending deportation or hearings'.  It first 
appeared in Sat Night magazine and is written by Abou Ali Farmanfarmian 
(boutan@att.net), he has given me permission to forward it and his edress 


[Image] [First Person - Melissa Auf der Maur] [The Blind Assassin] [We've Got 
Games] [Under Sentence of Death] [Design]

         By Abouali Farfarmanian
         Globalization promised a world without borders. It's easier
         said than done.

         In February I was stopped at the Canadian border as a          
         terrorist. I had recently quit my job at the United Nations          
         and was relocating to Montreal. I hopped on a Greyhound bus          
         at New York's Port Authority and woke up at 4:45 a.m. at             
         the Champlain border in eastern Quebec. An hour later, I
         was told that I was wanted by Interpol.                              

         This sort of thing is not unusual. I've had an uneasy                
         relationship with borders ever since my family was kicked           
         out of Iran, my country of birth, during the Islamic                 
         revolution of 1978. After the 1979 hostage crisis, everyone          
         bearing the dark crimson passport became a target. The              
         ritual of border-crossing turned into an ordeal of                  
         notarized documents, bank statements, proof of schooling,
         even doctors' notes. My passport had so many visa stamps             
         that one American officer had to turn it sideways to find            
         enough space for his own. It seemed as though I needed a             
         visa to buy candy or go to the bathroom. I've been turned            
         back from the borders of Sweden and France, and pulled              
         aside at almost every major Western border. When I was             
         sworn in as a Canadian citizen and finally received the              
         coveted blue passport, I thought these hassles were over.
         They weren't. I still get interrogated on every continent.          
         The difference on that windy morning at Champlain was that
         I was being grilled crossing the border into my own

         We think of borders as the beginnings or ends of a            
         territory because they're the first and last thing we see            
         of a country. We enter and leave through them, so they               
         appear to draw the boundary between inside and outside. In           
         fact, that's the function of frontiers, not borders.                
         Frontiers are the perimeters of a territory, the silhouette          
         of a country. They are delineated by mountains, rivers,
         diplomats. They were once synonymous with borders, but
         airplanes put an end to that.
         Now, the point of entry can be anywhere. You can stick a
         border right smack in the middle of a country as long as          
         there is a guard with a stamp and ink pad. When you fly
         into an airport, you pass over the frontier long before
         landing, and cross the border only after you're past the
         immigration desk. Sometimes the borders of one country are
         implanted inside another. By passing through U.S.
         immigration at Dorval airport, you gain admission to the
         U.S. while still in Montreal. Canadians, for their part,
         have stationed Immigration Control Officers in key cities
         around the world in order to deter bogus asylum seekers
         from making their way here. Borders can also come to meet
         you. Immigration officers visit the workplace to deport
         illegal workers. The U.S. Coast Guard regularly stops what
         it judges to be U.S.-bound "illegals" out on the high seas
         - "a floating Berlin Wall," as one immigration lawyer calls

         So borders distinguish not so much between inside and
         outside, as between insider and outsider, resident and
         tourist, citizen and alien. But this is the century of the
         displaced. There are 70 million migrants on the move at any
         given moment. Trafficking in human souls - packed in
         airtight containers in the bowels of a cargo ship or truck
         - nets an estimated $7 billion to $10 billion (U.S.) per
         year. In this kind of flux, who is an insider or an
     outsider? What is a border guard's job when Pakistani      
         fundamentalists live in London, Algerian criminals in

         My encounter at the Canadian border came shortly after
         Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian from Montreal, had been arrested
         crossing into the U.S. from Vancouver and charged with
         intent to blow up a millennium bash or two. There were
         rumours of foreign-terrorist cells multiplying like viruses
         on Canadian soil. Americans were worried, and Canadian
         politicians scrambled to appear harsher than usual. NAFTA's
         northern border guards, ordinarily on the lookout for a
         hidden bottle of Absolut Mandarin, began sniffing for
         concealed grenade launchers. Even the Montreal police
         entered into the international fray, warning of
         Algerian-Muslim "gangster-terrorist" thieves as they
         rounded up eleven Algerians. The message: "The enemy is

         In that climate, one look at my place of birth and Arabic
         name sent the Champlain guard to the phone with thoughts of
         a big catch and a quick promotion. It turned out, after
         much waiting, that the international crime for which
         Interpol wanted me was forgotten parking tickets in
         Montreal. Usually people are stopped for traffic violations
         and are later revealed to be terrorists. I had to be
         stopped as a terrorist only to be arrested for unpaid
         parking tickets.

         I've often fantasized about a world without passport
         controls and visas. An exhilarating moment came last year,
         when I passed through three countries in Europe without
         crossing through a checkpoint. But even in a continent
         unified under a single currency, the need for boundaries
         has not gone away. Notions of foreigner and outsider hold
         strong. To many who show up at its gates demanding entry,
         Europe can be brutal, sacrificing fundamental human rights
         in the parochial interests of a nation-stae. A lawyer
         friend tells me of cases in France and Britain in which
         people have been drugged and beaten and forced back on
         planes. Even the UN recently blasted "border enforcement
         and anti- trafficking agendas in Europe."

         North American identity, on the other hand, has grown with
         each influx of newcomers and is not tied to the notion of a
         historically rooted people, like the German volk or le
         peuple Fran*ais. Canada, up to now, has had an almost
         exemplary human-rights record in relation to immigration.
         But with the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and
         the unprecedented detention of Chinese migrants, Europe's
         draconian border practices may be mirrored by Canada sooner
         than we think, especially as NAFTA gets closer to full
         territorial integration.

         That is, at any rate, a more likely version of the future
         than the borderless Eden promised us by the prophets of
         globalization. They may not be fixed, but borders are
         absolute. They change as we change, but we will always be
         guarding against something. A borderless world is a naive
         fantasy. We come out of the womb, we're given our borders,
         and we guard them.

         Related Links:


         History of the Passport in Canada

         Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act

         Training for International Travellers at getcustoms.com

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