A few words to start with
Hey, I’m Frieda and I am part of the border tales Team. At least so far as you can consider it as a Team because border tales is of course open for everyone and there should be an equal chance to contribute. But we’re organizing the website, so I’ll call it a team. In the last blog entry you already heard Eric’s story and I want to tell you a little bit more about the background of this video.
One year ago, we had the idea to start something like border tales and at that time I seriously had no idea how complicated it is going to be. The idea came to Kathrin an me as we were spending some time in Ghana, where both of us had stayed for a voluntary service back in 2016. Since then we had heard quite a lot of stories from friends who had tried to visit Germany and were not able to, because their visa got refused. I met Eric, who is with me in the picture, and we became friends. Unforunately, I had lost contact with him and the last thing I had heard from him was that he was trying to get a visa from the German embassy a few months ago. A business partner invited him to meet in person and discuss a potential partnership. Eric is running a local NGO that does mostly community work in small villages in the Central Region of Ghana. He had already planned his trip to Germany when we talked the last time and he asked me if we could meet. Unfortunately, I was travelling myself at that time and we couldn’t see each other. When I planned my trip to Ghana, I contacted him, because I was sad, we had lost contact. Eventually, we met when I arrived, and I asked him about his time in Germany and how he liked it. I didn’t even question that he had been there, because everything seemed to be settled when he wrote those months ago. He laughed and told me he had not been able to travel, because his visa was refused. First, I thought he was joking. By that time, I already knew that it can be a struggle to get a Schengen visa and was not as naïve as to think everyone has the same chances. But obviously, I was still naïve because I had assumed, that there are less obstacles if someone is invited by a business partner for an official purpose. I was proofed wrong and was honestly shocked. How could that be possible? Eric and I talked a lot about the visa issues, the following days. When I told my friend Kathrin about Eric’s story, we thought it would be good to share it and make people aware of this kind of problem. I mean I had not known about the seriousness of the inequalities and I had been in contact with it for years. Still, I lived in that bubble that you’re in when you have a “powerful” passport like the German one. I can’t travel whenever or wherever I want but that’s due to the cost or probably a lack of time. So, if I really wanted to, I could just work more and then take a vacation to travel. Even though I would probably not see it like this, it still lies in my own responsibility and power to travel to another country. It would not really occur to me, that my visa application could be refused. Also, because with a German passport I can travel to more than 160 countries without even applying for a visa in advance. If I don’t want to go to North Korea or I indicate to be part of a terrorist organisation – I’m basically free to go wherever I want. Important to notice, that I’m white and female. With another skin colour or appearance, I might have more problems even though I have a German citizenship.
It is not a surprise that there is not a big protest against the EU’s visa politics, because people don’t really have the chance to experience what’s going on. Obviously, there are inequalities within the EU as well and with a German passport you are the luckiest one. But anyway, as an EU citizen you can cross so many borders without really thinking about it and I think it makes us forget about hard borders, that are still existing. Especially, if your country is surrounded only by other EU member states.
So, I asked Eric if he would be willing to share his experience and he was excited to join and tell people what’s going on. That’s how we got started with border tales.
Almost one year later and a lot of time invested in this “project” I must realize that I’m still as naïve as before and I will never be in the position to judge a situation which I can never fully understand, because I’m just too privileged. There has been criticism that we, the border tales “Team”, as a group of white German women, should not talk about inequalities that don’t include us. We put a lot of thought into this and got to a point where we asked if we should rather stop. Before anything was started. Nothing has been published yet. However, I do not fully agree, that we are out of this discussion. Borders affect anyone. Maybe, the effect we experience is less restrictive, but everyone is involved. And because of that it is my opinion that everyone should be involved. In the discussion. And the reason why I want to take initiative and continue with border tales is that we can reach those people who are less affected, just because we live in Germany. Still, I experience that it is much more difficult than I thought in the beginning. We don’t want to create a campaign about racist/ discriminating visa policies, because that would indeed be weird from our perspective, as we would always be in a documenting position. But we want to have a space for discussion where everyone is invited, and we can take part as well. That means, different perspectives, all kinds of different stories, no fixed matter that excludes anyone. So obviously the discussion can move on beyond stories about visa experiences. Anyway, this was the topic that initially brought up the idea to create border tales. That is why for me – and I think I can speak for the rest of the Team as well – it’s important to have a closer look at this topic.