Immigration horror at Hato Airport or how to become something like a stray dog!
Never travel anywhere on a Sunday I would readily advise anyone. Still, I found myself some weeks ago arriving on a Sunday afternoon at Hato Airport. The flight with Westjet out of Toronto was a wonderful one. A talkative intelligent young man was sitting next to me. He was fearful to get lost in Curaçao. Although he had studied the road map for weeks, he couldn't remember one single name of a road. Why are those names so unspeakable, he asked? Those were much easier to pronounce and remember just some years ago, I explained to him. But then a wave of nationalistic pride and hate of foreigners took hold on the island and gave birth to the idea of changing most names. Most locals liked it a great deal. Not very smart, he meant and shook his head in disbelieve.
Our landing went smooth and most of my fellow passengers looked forward to a week-long sunny stay. But being still on the upper level of the building we were stopped without any explanation. Military style, no one further – stay here! It's incredible what we all accept without a single question. A fat uniformed lady grim looking was holding us in check. It took quite a while until the first ones were allowed to step on the escalator leading down. Getting the first glimpse of the hall made clear that most passengers of the previous flight were still waiting in lines there. So it took for all of us much too long to reach the immigration boots. Those were mainly occupied with overeaten hateful looking ladies treating every single passenger like an enemy. Checking all passports carefully is a real good idea but nowadays one shouldn't forget that all data is exchanged already when someone buys a ticket and with all the pre-checks at other airports, one can easily say, that a wanted criminal would be already spotted long before he enters an airplane.
However, the immigration ladies were taking their time as every single passport would be a faked one. Never before have I observed so much incompetence on a Sunday afternoon. Finally, it was my turn and it was time because I needed to go to the toilet since quite a while but didn't spot a restroom while waiting in line. “You can't enter here”, the immigration lady yelled at me after she had checked my passport (issued by the Governor of Curacao) and her computer with extreme slowness. “So why is that?”, I asked politely. “If I would do the same as you are doing here in The Netherlands, I would be deported”, she explained now even louder. “So what am I doing?” I asked not knowing what the hell was going on but realizing that this lady is motivated by racism and abusing me. “You were here already this year”, she said caustically. “And what's wrong with that?” I asked in disbelief, “...you dislike the money I spend here frequently or what?” She kept on talking to me as I would be a street dog she dislikes. One must know that I'm the most inconspicuous person one can ever meet, no makeup, no high heel shoes, no fancy dress and petite. Starting to be grey haired I'm no competition to no one but for her, I was just simply too white! She hated me upon seeing my passport, just simply Nazi style, I would say.
“You have to buy a return ticket and you can only stay for one month”, she was finally spitting into my face. I started smiling and just wanted to ask for her boss as another uniformed lady was all of a sudden standing behind me and took over. “You won't get your passport back”, she said right away. “Why, what's wrong with my passport?” “You can't come and go as you want over here?”, she yelled out. Realizing that all this will take a bit longer I asked her if I could go outside and inform the lady who picks us up that it will take some time. “No”, she replied, “no one can leave the hall without a passport!” So I just turned around saying that I go now and use the toilet. In the same time, I informed my husband which was waiting already for a long time at the luggage belt not knowing what was going on. He is already registered as a citizen of Curacao since some years and of course, didn't believe what he heard. “Don't worry”, I said to him and looked for the paper I had somewhere which I had gotten some years ago from the immigration as proof that I had asked for “toelating van rechtswege” and yes I found it.
“It's old”, the immigration officer said, “you can be denied since long”. “You have a computer”, I answered promptly, “go ahead and check if I'm denied!” “We are not connected with them”, she answered. With this answer, it was very clear that she enjoyed the game they had ready for me and that she was nothing else than a pure racist enjoying her discriminatory and unlawful actions. I told her right away that I wouldn't buy a return ticket to nowhere. Finally she decided she would give me a copy of my passport stapled it with my “Bewijs van aanvrag Verblijfvergunning” and wrote on it: “Need to go to immigration office for an appointment to pick up her resident paper or need to buy a ticket back to Amsterdam” (scratched “Amsterdam) and replaced it with “go back”. So she clearly did not even know where I came from. With this, she sent me out the building where no one can leave without as passport as she just had said earlier!
I had stopped going to the immigration office years ago which was then located near Gosie Weg as it had become clear to me that they service which was delivered there was a very discriminatory one. The ladies there were sitting behind thick glass and were most of the time I came busy with their makeup using big brushes I only need for painting the walls. Or showed each other their newest acrylic nails. By any definition, they didn't work. But plenty of people were spending their days there hoping to get their papers done. Mainly poor labourers paid by the hour and losing money they urgently needed whenever they had to be there while the taxpayer paid a horde of people which had stalled all work since long and were just sitting there. In general, an appointment was arranged with the Security Guard (so never overlook the importance of Security Guards in Curacao!). And it happened to me that I came to an appointment and the very same Security Guard who had arranged it couldn't find it anymore in his book because he was unable to read his very own handwriting. Soon after that, I read in the newspaper that the Minister (at that time a woman) gave notice that no one has to go to the Immigration Service anymore because everyone which had applied for residency would get a notice in writing. That was the onliest time ever in my long life that I became really happy by reading the newspaper! And believe it or not, I felt content that I didn't have to go there anymore.
From time to time my husband asked if I have gotten any information from the immigration but no I didn't. The years went by. And once I even wrote an registered letter. Three times the mail tried to deliver it to the Immigration office but they denied to accept it. Each attempt precisely stamped and noted by the mail deliverer. I still have it on my desk. But anyway I don't want to keep you too long with a real lousy Curacao Immigration Service story. Of course, I couldn't go to the bank for money because I had no passport anymore. Believe me, I really felt like a stray dog.
I went to the Immigration Office at Punda and I would never have believed this but the service there has totally changed to the better! I told a friendly and competent employee - the Chinese looking lady working at the reception - my story. She couldn't really believe it but acted swiftly. A gentleman called Rick tried to phone the immigration service at Hato but couldn't reach anyone knowing anything about my case. He just shook his head as I asked him why did they do that? It wasn't normal for him and of course, they can look into the secrets of our computer files, he meant. He supplied me with everything necessary and said: “Go back there they have to give you back your passport and then come back to us and we stamp it for you!” Kudos to all who were involved in the Immigration at Punda!! I didn't know anyone but they simply helped me out of my misery in the fastest and competent way.
But wait you need to know what else happened. Of course, I didn't know where to wait as I went back to the airport. So I asked the officer which is checking all departing passengers and showed her the copy of my passport and supplied her with my story. She also just shook her head and said: “But you have a valid passport from the Governor!” She also didn't understand it. But she phoned and I had to wait at the Arrival area for quite some time. Finally, another female Immigration officer came out and I gave her my residency paper I just got in Punda. She checked it up and down and said while she was holding my passport very firm in her hand: “This paper doesn't look as the one's I know. There is no photo on it. You know, I can send you back and for as often as I want!” “What do you think you are”, I said now quite loudly. Of course, she didn't wear a badge. She pointed to my husband who was standing a bit aside and asked: “Is this your husband? What kind of language he speaks?” He is born in the Alps as well as I am but I said to her: “He is as local as you are!” Upon she became furious and instantly fuming like a Cuban cigar and yelled: “Which kind of papers he has?' “The same as you have!” I answered. She now became very emotional almost finding herself in a kind of distress of finding the right words and repeated: “The same as I have?” “Yes”, I said, “the same as you have. The very same Sedula as you have he has. As there is just one, isn't it?” “I can keep your passport as long as I want”, she answered yelling, “you don't speak like this with me!” “You know what”, I said to her, “you can keep it! Because I stay here anyway and I will start a “kortgeding” at court to get it back! You understand me?” Upon this, she looked as someone would have hit her ass. While I slowly turned around she let fall my passport into my hands and walked away without any further word.
Upon reading in the Amigoe that two women have attacked an immigration officer I must state, as peaceful as I am, I do understand the action of the two women.
By Marry Simpson