Tag Archives visa

Unlike the French, the Brits do it with a smile

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Remember my less than ideal experience with the French Embassy recently? Well, we applied for a British visa, took an appointment via their website, arrived at the prescribed time in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, did the required security checks and took the lift to the 23rd floor. There we were greeted by security guards with those metal detection wands, waved them at us and off we entered a well lit and airy office with an electronic queuing system.

We sat in their waiting area and immediately noticed the complete absence of bullet proof glass and that everyone there was smartly dressed in professional looking uniforms.

Our number came up, Frances took the pre-filled documents to the assigned desk where the lady looked through 5 sets of 26-paged visa application forms, got Frances to fill a few extra required details, handed in our passports which were checked and passed along to another queue after we paid the visa fees of BD820. You have to budget for visas now as part of your holiday finances! Once that was done, we were called in turn to get the finger prints scanned and pictures taken, and off we went on our way (we had breakfast at a newly opened bagel shop on the 2nd floor, simply scrumptious! The choices they have are mouth-watering and mind-boggling too!)

We were called approximately 24 hours later via a text message informing us that the passports were ready for collection. We all got 5-year visas without any bother whatsoever!

And you know what? They didn’t require 6 months bank statements, no stamped and approved hotel booking confirmation, no issued return air tickets. All they wanted were approximate dates on which we intend to travel!

The whole experience was civil and professional.

There was no one shouting and no Napoleon-wannabe patrolling the decks shouting and denigrating everyone in sight, and no frustrated and frazzled women who have seen better days and climes residing behind bullet-proof glass pretending to be Gallic protectors of the French and larger European Nation from the hordes of Bahraini terrorists and who think that without them personally – together with their diminutive mini-Napoleon-wannabe – that the whole of Europe would crumble.

The Brits can certainly teach the French some professionalism as well as give them lessons on how to treat people in a civil manner. However, I won’t hold my breath for the French Embassy or its masters in Paris to seek those direly needed lessons in better customer-care, though.

Off to the UK, sometime soon and with pleasure!

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Collective punishments

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There are a few things that suggest that our society is in a desperate state. The indicators are probably best exemplified by the exclusionary standards our parliamentarians and their electorate take. Both are quick to condemn whole peoples, nations and even civilizations due to isolated incidents without taking one second to reflect on our own shortcomings and our non-exclusive ownership of basic human values.

Some might attribute this collective psyche as a result of the insular lifestyle attributed to island communities, but the irony is that people of these islands until very recently were an awful lot more tolerant and receptive to other cultures than its current breed is.

What happened? Why is it that the more open to the world they get the more insecure they become? What could explain this other than in terms of a severe inferiority complex?

If you talk to Bahrainis fortunate enough to have lived in the 70s and before, they will categorically tell you that they have never experienced anything like this, they will confirm that they didn’t give their neighbour’s race or religion much importance. They will further tell you that they habitually interacted with each other in various ways; they visited, conducted business and even fought the British occupation together by forming and maintaining a cohesive multi-cultural front that crossed confessional divides. The common denominator was their Bahraininess which surpassed every other consideration. They celebrated their differences, rather than diligently work at finding the chinks to exploit in each others’ armor.

The stark contrast between that era and now could not be more evident. What we now have is an acutely insular society with impenetrable walls propped up by suspicion and hatred of the other. This “us and them” atmosphere is condoned by the government – regardless of how many denials we hear from their higher echelons – evidenced by the selective employment policies, the conditional awards of constitutionally guaranteed citizen benefits and the disparity in economic circumstance.

It has unfortunately become our way of life. So much is this in evidence, it is no wonder to witness the parliamentarians’ reactions; whether it be the condoning of the use of chemical weapons against their own society simply because in the current state of affairs demonstrations are mounted by the opposing sect, or their continued theft of their electorate’s personal freedoms or even their demand to expel and ban whole countries’ nationals due to the isolated incidences of the few.

We are all shocked and saddened by the unfortunate and violent recent demise of Mr. Dossary, as we are of Mr. Abbas Alshakhoori and the others who have fallen victims of unusual circumstances, but those incidents, painful as they are, hardly illicit the demand for the application of the collective punishment demanded by a major political society. Identify and punish the criminals by all means and make examples of them by fairly and fully applying the law, but those incidents should never be allowed to colour our psyche to the extent that we allow our own elected representatives to exercise their myopic beliefs without even a smidgeon of objection. And it is even worse when the government itself acts in such an unwarranted and unstudied kneejerk reaction as to impose such a ban on its own recognizance without any regard for its international obligations or even basic diplomacy.

Let us remind them that their role is to ameliorate differences and protect the national unity, and not diligently and wantonly work at exacerbating them. The demand to expel and ban Bangladeshis because of the unfortunate result of a single person’s moment of anger is tantamount to our agreement to the entrenchment and even encoding xenophobia as our main Bahraini trait.

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No passports needed to visit Saudi

Bahraini ID Card

Finally, after 25 years or so of establishing the Gulf Cooperation Council, citizens of both Bahrain and Saudi will soon be able to visit each other’s country by just using their identity card rather than a passport. This will take effect in 30 days due to an agreement signed at the Interior Ministers’s meeting in Riyadh yesterday.

Thanks! That should make things a bit easier. You wouldn’t believe the number of times that I found out that I didn’t have my passport with me when I reached the border point on the causeway! Soon, I won’t have to worry about that.

One thing they could do is unify the visas throughout the Gulf so that residents in one country can easily go to another without having to go through the onerous steps of getting a recurrent visa from one country or another. For instance, we go through hell (and a lot of begging) to get our engineer a visa so he can visit our customers in Saudi.

Ah well, one step at a time I guess. As allowing citizens to travel to each other’s country has taken 26 years to achieve, to get residents to do so will probably take oooh, another 260 years. Not bad.

Incidentally, did you know that there is a page listing the lost and found ID cards on the Ministry of Interior’s website? Quite nifty isn’t it!

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