One doesn’t simply cross the border

I don’t know what any individual should do about crossing her borders. I only know that I live a happier, more adventurous life, by crossing borders.
– Sherman Alexie

I have a hobby: collecting passport photos of myself. Coloured or black-and-white, depends on the situation. Usually, 3.5 by 4.5 cm, but there can be exceptions. I take one at least once a year, but mostly up to three or four times. I am not particularly self-involved or narcissistic. And not even very good at this hobby of mine. It’s just a little yearly link in the long chain of events that allows me to be where I want to be, despite flags and borders. I am a Russian alien person trying to make sense of other galaxies.

An email came in this morning. ‘IMMI Refusal Notification’, it said. ‘I cannot be satisfied that the applicant intends to stay temporarily in Australia for the purpose for which the visa is to be granted’, it said. That was unfortunate. My colleagues and I have been preparing the whole year for this very important three-week field research project in South Australia. The tickets are bought, the local partners are waiting. Everyone in the group has their visas, except for myself, the only ‘non-EU’.
The gods of Immigration have been relatively kind to me throughout my almost six-year long journey away from the Mothership. The offerings they demand are mostly fair – 100 to 200€ per visa or a residence permit, fingerprints, lots of paper, lots of printing ink, a pinch of privacy violation and some moments of dread while awaiting the decision. I am well aware that some have it much harder. However, I can’t help but feeling desperate every now and again. Will there ever be a state of events, where one has the right to stay where they want to stay and do the work they want to do without having to clench in their sweaty nervous fingers a piece of paper or plastic proving their affiliation with a local institution or another, more legitimate, human being? How long will my double-headed eagle passport be secondary to those with regular, non-mutant, eagles, lions, olive branches, menorahs and other pictograms?

Bear with me, some more rhetorical questions ahead. How many more local human beings does an alien have to provide with work projects to be able to stay, just a little longer? How many successful cultural exchanges to implement? How much more to represent the local scientific and artistic community in international events? How much taxes to pay? How many years to share a household with another, more legitimate, human being? How many more languages to learn?…
Human migration, ‘movement by people from one place to another with the intention of settling temporarily or permanently in the new location’ (Wikipedia), dates back 1,75 million years ago. So, nothing new about that. However, the world of today seems to be often caught off guard when yet another stranger attempts to cross its precious borders, be it for conducting a harmless artistic project or for escaping a grave danger.

By Daria Akimenko

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