Schiphol Apartheid

Have you ever passed through the non-Schengen gate in Schiphol airport?

Ok, let me re-phrase the question:

Have you ever passed the non-Schengen gate in Schiphol airport, holding in your hand, let’s say: a Sudanese, Kenyan, Indian or Cuban passport?

Schiphol airport – which is the main entry point for most people visiting the Netherlands – is imposing a policy, similar to third world dictatorships on its non-Schengen gate.

When you pass through the passport control, what is supposed to be a routine check becomes a nightmare if you don’t have the “right” nationality.

I’ve arrived to the Netherlands last January, thinking that the 45 days I had to spend to get the “Holy” Schengen Visa were the end of my troubles. But in the passport control, the officer – while routinely checking the others – asked me to go back to what I call now “The Unwanted Zone”.

In the “Unwanted Zone”, you will be joined by your compatriots from all around the Unwanted World. At that time, I thought it is mainly Africans or Middle-Easterns, but I figured out that the notorious Zone includes also many Asians and Latin Americans.

First of all, I’d like to emphasize that this act is not individual, it is clearly a policy imposed by the authorities controling Schiphol airport and it is not a general trend around the EU as my friends and me, came through several other airports around Europe (Frankfurt, Vienna etc …) without encountering the same kind of problems.

Second, I recognize that the balance between Europe and the rest of the world (and specifially Africa) is totally unequivalent to the extent that Europeans are developing some kind of a Phobia against these countries. But I am not trying to discuss an act of illegal immigration here, this is the situation of people who spend months to get the Visa legitimately, their papers are checked thoroughly by all Schengen countries and they are granted the Visa after having to overlook several acts of arrogance by the reprenstatives of EU embassies, and after getting the Visa, they are still considered as “Criminals/Illegal immigrants” by such authorities.

The most irritating part of this experience, is that Dutch officers who are generally very respectful seem to have a “Carte Blanche” to act like Third World officers, at least with Third World citizens.

My 19 year old sister went through the Schiphol hell few months ago. Arriving to Amsterdam, presenting her passport – needless to say – she was escorted to the “Unwanted Zone”. Four different officers kept asking her of her intentions after the expiry of her Visa, she replied to each one of them that she is a student and she will return back in a month. The funny part was that – after a while – they shifted to a new matter, they thought that the look of the Renewal Stamp on the passport was weird for their taste. So they kept checking the Stamp for half an hour, assuming that the Dutch embassy and 23 other Schengen countries granted a Visa for an expired passport. The stamp was not even in a language they understood.

An unlucky Iranian who was also brought to the “Zone”, claimed that he is there to visit his brother, so the officer asked for the phone number of that brother and called him asking if he is supposed to bring someone from the airport that day!

But what had driven me to write about this issue again, is what the father of my colleague went through in Schiphol airport. The man is above 65 years old from Cuba. He had to go through the same “silliness” in his first trip to Europe. At the end, a police officer escorted him to meet his son, and asked him if this is his father as he claims, then he let the old man go. Imagine the impression this respectful man had about the Netherlands and its people after this experience!

But that’s also not the issue. Can anyone tell me what is the criteria that joins a Sudanese, Kenyan, Cuban, Indian and an Iranian. It’s not the color, definitely not the religion or ethnicity. For me, I say it is the fact – that according to Schiphol and subsequently the government of the Netherlands – they are worthless countries (and worthless citizens) that don’t deserve the same degree of respect granted to other nationalities.

Needless to say that Equality between Human Beings is just a myth in today’s world. There ARE differences. But it is not the absence of Equality that surprised me, it is the absence or other values that I – mistakenly – thought that Europeans care for. Rule of Law is one of them.

Once I am granted a Visa – whether am American, Japanese, Sudanese or Cuban – then the only authority these officers should have, is to check whether that Visa is forged or not, and this can be done electronically as far as I know.

In an ideal world, I would ask for equal treatment, but let’s be serious for a moment here.All I ask for is the right to be treated as “Innocent until proven Guilty”, not the other way around. I think we deserve that even if we come from the poorest most problematic countries of the world. It’s a pity that I have to ask for such a basic right in the 21st century in a country like the Netherlands. But no one claimed that life is just, at least not us!

26 thoughts on “Schiphol Apartheid”

  1. It was hell for us in Vienna on the way back from Sudan this summer. Reminds me of the racist Dutch PM who got detained at Heathrow. At least they had a reason to not allow him in, and he was immediately returned home.

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    1. haha,,no problem, also the GB people can be detained at schiphol? it will be a problem for british noisy guys who want to enjoy Amsterdam at weekends but this will not happen. What dutch PM experienced is a particular case related to politics, anyway he got advertised and many britons did not agree their policy. just a high level scheme.

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  2. One of the biggest problem I see between lets say people from “developed” and “developing” countries (or anywhere) is that some people from each group use to put a person to one of these boxes. This is something called prejudice – when you judge a person on the basis of outside look – what he/she wears, which language he/she speaks, where is he/she from, which age, gender, orientation, race, nationality etc. he/she is and not on his/her character. I hope I do not have to mention that this is not the right judging because many times you do not get it right. It also causes fear, hatred and also discrimination in the end.

    But what I do need to mention is that prejudices could be positive (and cause the same things). When Europe tells to the world that it defend democracy and human rights does not mean that all Europe is perfect. In this case I would describe it like this – people from this “developing” countries might have prejudice towards Dutch that they are all good people because they live in, how we westerners say, civilized country with proper education. Nobody from them has prejudice, no one is racist and everybody of them believe in law and equality. (Also that America have a black president does not mean that there is no racism anymore).
    I think this is something really wrong to think because it also is not right judgment. As in Sudan there are also nice policemen I guess (I hope) and in the Netherlands are also stupid policemen. Here you will find racists, corruption and inequality too. I mean – the think that when we say that here is democracy, it does not mean that we do not need to still fight for it so it stays. Here are still problems with human rights, maybe not in such huge extend as in Sudan, but there ARE problems and human stupidity.

    I am not defending these border policemen but I am trying to say that not everybody is like that in Europe and I hope it is not every border policeman (even I remember that we had this discussion that only foolish people become soldiers; it might be the same with border police ;-).

    To the others who might not know I am from Slovakia. Happily, I do not have such problems like Cubans or Sudanese but I could feel something similar on my skin. I was in the east (for us something like “developing”) like Kiev or Moscow where I was considered as wealthy, proud and naive; and then also on the west in London and New York where I was the poor without any respect. By saying this I do not want to put again each city “into the box” (everywhere were also nice, intelligent and open minded people:), but the thing is that everywhere you go, you will find the same old thing. And to not expect this now is just naivety, believe me or not.

    I believe in “all different but all equal” and there are many people like me in every place in the world as there are also people who do not believe in it. I just hope that soon the first group will show the other group what is the truth.

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    1. My point Ada is that this is not an individual act. This is a policy. If it was individual, it wouldn’t be happening to different people with different nationalities by different officers. Dutch are – in my opinion – by far the most open minded of Europe (specially young generation), that doesn’t mean that there is no racist or xenophobic individuals, that’s normal. But this case of Schiphol, this is a policy. It is a policy that I would describe in one word “Shameful”.

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    2. Hello,

      I think you are judging little bit too hard.
      How many people do you think are there in Holland od fals papers.
      I can tell you they are thousands.
      And though I can imagine many reasons why they come,becaus Holland is still a very friendly country to foreigners.
      But how long can you keep that up?
      And they are here too stay,Holland did not invite them.
      So if some customs officer wants to have an extra look,yiu should not react so sensitive.
      It has a reason!
      Peter

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  3. I am sorry to hear about your experiences at Schiphol. I have travelled a few times in and out of Schiphol, and other EU airports and have noticed also that skin colour (ie not white) was a reason to hold people to the back, or put to the side. (I [b]AM[/b] white.)
    The problem is, if you were to complain, who do you complain to? Its the same people. If it were individuals, it would be easier to solve, because individuals could be punished and the routine checks resumed. Catch-22.
    The problem however is that, I think (I hope) that these rigorous checks are in place because of the amount of illegal immigrants, but I also firmly believe that its the innocent people who do everything properly, by the book who end up getting punished. Let me guess, in order to get your Shengan Visa, you had to take at least one day off work and also stand in line like cattle? People who want to dodge these controls will do it, they will always find ways to get through illegally, they may even have help on both sides, I can’t know. But thats no reason to treat the rest of the people so badly. I feel for you, and I hope that they soon learn how to be more respectful, but unfortunately, I don’t know if/when that will happen.

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    1. @Jane: I think that in a country like the Netherlands, where everything is decided by the “system”, there is a possibility to argue with this system. In my country, the choice you have is to Accept or Hold a Kalashnikov. This is why I would write a blog about an issue in the Netherlands and hope/think that it might change things, while in other countries, it is impossible. This is the main point of the blog.

      About illegal immigrants: I will not start a conversation about how illegal they actually are (that’s another issue) but as I said the bottom line should be that if I have a Visa I am allowed to enter without questions (and if there are questions, they should be somehow smarter than this). But let’s assume I am an illegal immigrant, you probably don’t know that our visas are checked by officers there and as if that’s not enough, they are checked by flight attendants and they even have the right to return you (yes, the flight attendants and they do it). In addition, practically speaking, if I am an illegal immigrant and I made to Schiphol and got rid of my passport, asked for political assylum, these officers can not return me back! So what’s the point?

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  4. Take it as it is. Crossing the landborder of Russia isn’t easy too for a Westerner. It takes you half a day. As an Australian your visa will even be terribly expensive. It’s all about relationships between countries and I think it’s not that easy to get information from the countries you are talking about. I am sure that dutchmen would have the same problems at many Eastern borders. However we can go freely to Japan, again through diplomacy. The U.S. is pretty rigid too at their borders (in comparison to Canadians). Bureaucracy over here (in holland) is terrible however, so that’s something I can agree on. For the rest I think you can blame the diplomates of your homecountry.

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    1. @Erchio: and all this “insulting” is nothing compared to what I would get in my “own” country just trying to get – let’s say – an Identity Card.

      Moreover the diplomats of my countries don’t care, otherwise, I would be addressing this post to them. But that’s a different battle where blogs don’t really work.

      But I assumed that the norms are different over here, as I said, am not asking for equality, but just to be treated as innocent till proven guilty. That doesn’t have anything to do with diplomacy or bureaucracy. Isn’t it?

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  5. I have to say that likening an airport set of rules in a liberal democracy of the European Union to a third world dictatorship is insulting to the suffering of those who really do live in such regimes. I have every sympathy with the irritations experienced by fellow travellers, but such remarks are facile, unimaginative, intellectually-flawed and, as I have said above, insulting to those who suffer such genuinely appalling regimes.

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    1. @Claudius: must say I liked your point but … I have lived in dictatorships – except for the last 13 months – for all my life. You know the kind of dictators that u have to salute his picture every morning before going to class, and u see his picture in every corner. You know what’s the worst feeling about it (for me), it is that feeling of being helpless, weak and unable to react. You can’t react to a teacher beating u, a policeman insulting u, a ministry stealing u (and the scale goes up and down) … This is the main difference for me between what u call a “liberal democracy” and a dictatorship .. the scale is different for sure, but here a word/ an action can change things. This is why I express my opinions in a blog. Over there, the means – if there is any – are totally different.

      So view it from the right perspective: In my country, unless I am slapped in the face I won’t consider it as an insult. In some parts of my country, unless my sister is raped by a militia man I won’t take it as an insult. But in a country that is calling itself “liberal democratic”, I would take it as an insult. Perspective Claudius Perspective!

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  6. Sorry to hear about the hell you had to go through at Schiphol Airport, but let me tell you that I have to go through the same thing upon entering America. And I’m a white, working woman from Holland. I have to take my shoes off, my handluggage gets searched, I have to sit through a lot of questions and it happened to me twice that I had to come with them for a stripsearch. And that’s just on a tourist visa. I can’t even obtain a visa and greencard to work over there. I’m not defending anyone or accusing anyone. But is it still racism when it happens to everyone?

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    1. @marloes: I just want to put something clear, this has nothing to do with being black (even though I am), I think this kind of racism is something from the past (at these official levels at least). My aunt just got an American passport, and for the first time ever, she managed to go to Africa through Europe without being stopped, and she is still black! But like I said what joins a Sudanese, Cuban, Indian, Nepali .. It is not the color or religion, it is the fact that these nationalities – according to my interpretation – are worthless countries therefore worthless persons in the eyes of Schiphol therefore the government of the Netherlands. I am not discussing that fact now, I don’t want to have a visa on arrival like an American, but the bottom line is that, if I get a visa legitimately, I pay the fees, I show my financial statements, I get an invitation, I wait for three weeks, I am checked by 20+ countries; then the only norm should be to check if this Visa is forged or not.

      Yes your situation in America is not pleasant. And racism is racism whether the victim is white or black. But in this situation as I showed, it’s not a matter of color, and it is not a request for equal treatment. Equal treatment would be to have a Visa on arrival like a European get a visa on arrival in my country. But I never asked for that. I accept all the differences (as unjust as they might be) but just be professional for everybody’s sake.

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    2. Marloes,
      You reaction is a typical way of defending your racist upbringing. The issue here is discrimination. If everyone has to take of his shoes to enter the US then fine that’s the law. But is there a dutch law to discriminate people from thirdworld country’s? I don’t think so. But why do they then doe it at Schiphol? So please don’t derail the issue and put it in a different perspective in order to defending your hypocrite mentality. Somehow i respect guys like Gert Wilders (I don’t agry with their opinion). They say what they think. But most dutch people like Marloes talk tolerant and act racist. Hypocrism is typical dutch.

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  7. Hi guys! I’m ashamed to read this article.
    I have put up a link to my facebook and hyves friends.
    Hope things wil go better in the (near) future.
    cu! (i’m dutch and white)

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  8. I can understand this experience. I am from Turkey and living in the Netherlands. Most people from western countries reading your experience cannot imagine what it means. First, the visa process: To receive a short term Schengen visa in your home country you are already treated like in a colonial rule irrespecitive of your edication, wealth and education. It doesn’t matter if u have an official invitation or travelling for work purposes or for a short trip. They ask each time (although they have everything about you already in the system) all your financial information inc. how much money you have in your bank account, your credit cards, title deeds of your apartment etc. Then all the details of your trip. Then you get a visa between the time of your booked flight instead of the max. 3 months. Then your visa is again checked at least 3 times at the airport in oyur home country and scanned before you take the flight. When you landed, many times the passport check is at the plane exit directly. Old people who came to visit their children are interrogated in english and put under stress. Everyonw knows that all the illegal people will enter either by land crossings or will simply stay over their visa. Almost nobody will try to enter thru airport illegally. Sometimes they will look at your passport for minutes. And this is after all the hassle of weeks and after your got a visa of 2 weeks.
    Knowing a bit about the Dutch people and how the Dutch system works, I can assure you that no officer will act by his own. They just follow the directives, they prob. have a list of countries, list of questions etc. They just think their country is great and anybody outside the western world comes only for illegal work or better life. They are full of (only negative) prejudices that will be confirmed by each negative case. Unfortunately this is the truth.

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  9. Hi Kabaros,

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about your ordeal. I never get such a treatment, no matter where I go.

    But to put a different slant to your story, I also never feel like coming home when I arrive at Schiphol airport. Maybe customs officers just don’t get paid enough where I’m from, maybe they’re just understaffed at Schiphol airport. But whether your Dutch, Schengen, ‘western’, or from any other country, you always get treated like dirt at Schiphol.

    And, as a Dutchman, this saddens me. Because not unlike anybody else who visits my country – I’ve been living abroad for the last 7 years – I’d like to feel welcome when I get back to the Netherlands.

    If a smooth customs ride and a welcoming feeling is your main concern, avoid Schiphol as your entry point. I wholeheartedly agree.

    Nota bene: this is not unlike my experiences with Dutch consular offices abroad. Maybe the Dutch Foreign Ministry breeds only the rude kind of civil servant.

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  10. I am sorry to say that this unlawful behaviour is not just happening at non-Schengen gates. It is also happening at Schengen gates at Schiphol and I have witnessed it many times when suddenly there is unlawful passport control at these gates when there are flights coming in from Greece!!!

    I have seen people pulled aside, taken away when they did not have the right visa or passport. People mostly of dark or black skin, people that looked arab or what is now more common “terrorist”!!! what a joke that is… everyone can be a terrorist and its an easy way to abuse people’s rights and privacy hidden behind such laws.

    I also want to complain for what I see and witness that I find unlawful but whom do we tell? Is there a phone number? Is there an authority that is above such situations and will not hide them under some carpet? Who could expose this scandal, this shame?

    Are we cohersed into allowing such situations to take place much as they happened some 60 years ago under Nazi government? Where are we going?

    Perla

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  11. I work at Schiphol and you will be suprised at how many peple come in to the Netherlands on temp visa with no Intenchen of ever leaving the country.

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    1. so what are your criterias for finding out these “intentions”?

      and what is the role of your embassies then? why am I given a Visa in the first place?

      do you think that a 65 years old Cuban man really has the intention to stay in the Netherlands?

      If you have such a “brilliant” way of figuring out my intentions, why don’t you pass it on to your embassies, wouldn’t that make more sense?

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  12. I live in Amsterdam, and though I have an Irish passport (EU, but not Schengen), the authorities have never stopped me. I’d like to believe that it’s because of the colour of our passports (same purple as the European passports which are part of Schengen), but I suspect it’s the colour of my skin that makes the difference. It’s racism plain and simple.

    There’s an “unwanted zone” in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport called ZAPI. It’s an abomination — and most French people don’t even know about it. It’s like a little gitmo camp right in the centre of their largest airport. See http://no-racism.net/article/1218/

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  13. Dear Friends,

    I hold an EU passport but I’m African by descent! I have witnessed many a times the way people of my colour get handled at the gates of Schiphol, and it is a sad scene! But if you are black and hold a European passport please avoid Paris Charles de Gaulle airport as your entry point. The French at this airport cannot tell the difference between an African holding an EU passport and one that doesn’t, they are treated exactly the same and I mean worse because I have gobe through that treatment! Thank God Schiphol tries!

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  14. hello ….., do you know how many people come to The Netherlands and are too lazy to work, study or want to integrate here ….. the first way is to the social office, and how it is if 7 year old boys call you a whore ….. sorry ….. we have a lot of cultures for centuries here, but now it is enough …

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    1. Hello Shenken,

      dutch do talk tolerant but they act in general racist, that is so true.
      unbelievable that hypocrite dutch with their big mouths can get away with it in the world, I think the rest of the world should make it more known by internet how the dutch really behave!
      Oh by the way I am an Asian living more than 45 years in holland, so I should know how the dutch are!

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  15. Netherlands is an overpopulated country. Probably they made mistakes in the past with the immigration but now they woke up and became strictly. When you have one of the highest density in the world and everyone wants rights then either quit or go to a mental hospital.
    P.S. and as many of you pointed out above, indeed there are a lot of “immigrated” people in NL and probably you do not want to meet or get in contact with them in the night in the outskirts of the big cities. Also during the day you can see them behaving weird and wasting time. There will not be equality and democracy because we are too many on earth.

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