I had spent close to a week in Bangladesh presenting and participating in the Dhaka Literature Festival in November 2015. After the trip I took a few days off to tour Singapore and Malaysia—both of which I fortunately did not require a visa in advance. My return flight to my hometown, Nairobi, would transit through Istanbul. There was an unavoidable 24-hour layover that the airline would compensate me for in the form of a five-star hotel room during my long wait. I got to Istanbul—exhausted and eager to get to my nice cozy hotel room, shower, and sleep off my jetlag before my long trip to Nairobi.
Airline officials assured me that all I needed to do was get my one-day transit visa for Turkey from a little machine. The first question on the screen read “Are you a citizen of the USA, UK, Germany, France… Chile, South Africa?”
I am a Kenyan citizen.
“Are you holding a valid visa for USA, UK, Germany… Chile, South Africa?”
Uhhmm. No. I am generally issued 10-day visas, two-week visas, one-month visas for certain countries if I am very lucky.
The next message on the screen read, “Unfortunately you are not eligible for a transit visa.” Just like that, I realized that my Turkey experience would be lived at the airport. I got back to the information counter sad at the realization that a valid Chilean visa was more readily accepted than my Kenyan passport.
I was led to a huge football stadium of a bedroom—filled with other black people, brown people, and some Arabs – those of us passport undesirables. I was shown my makeshift bed, given a pillow and a thin blanket. “You can stay here ’til your flight, tomorrow.”
It made me think of all the indignities I and so many other Africans suffer at the hands of immigration officials.
Full article available on Quartz.