Friday, May 30, 2014

Dr. Phelan: Illegal Alien Extraordinaire

If you read my blog last week you are aware that I have a residence permit which expires on May 31st, however, I don’t have a plane ticket departing Botswana for a little while.  This means that two days from now I will be considered in the country illegally and I can technically be deported.  I will have become an illegal alien!

In all honesty, I am the best illegal alien a country could ever ask for.  I’m not looking for employment.  I’m not a refugee asking for a hand out.  I have plenty of money to spend.  I’ve paid all my bills.  I worked FOR FREE!  And I know that I am most definitely leaving… I’m just leaving slightly later than initially planned.  By the way, I’m actually not leaving later than planned.  The real problem here is that my residence permit had the wrong end date from the beginning- it was supposed to be valid through the end of June.  I brought this to the attention of the university back in October when I originally got the permit and the problem was never corrected.  So in reality I’m not leaving later than planned, I’m leaving on time and the permit was issued incorrectly. Nevertheless, I am the one who is considered at fault, meaning I am about to become an illegal alien and people with that status are generally looked down upon.  As I was contemplating my upcoming illegal status I was reminded of another experience not too long ago with illegal aliens:

Back in November I made an unexpected trip to Ethiopia when my flight to Rwanda was cancelled.  This was the trip where my perpetually lost luggage went rogue and spent six weeks in purgatory.  Part of the reason for the chaos of the Ethiopian airport during my ill-fated 24-hour layover may have been due to a mass illegal alien roundup.

Unemployment is a problem throughout Africa.  In many countries unemployment is as high as 50%, with Zimbabwe believed to have the highest rate with over 80% of the population unemployed.  Not surprisingly, many people cross borders, taking up residence in foreign countries illegally in order to obtain some sort of employment and standard of living.  Ethiopia is no exception to this rule.  Thousands of Ethiopians cannot obtain travel documents or papers, but they take the chance and WALK to Djibouti and then get on a ship bound for Saudi Arabia. Once in Saudi Arabia they secure under the table, illegal employment. But it turns out too many of them have been trying this method and there are now too many illegal migrant workers from Ethiopia in Saudi Arabia.  Since the Saudi Arabian economy can’t handle the massive influx anymore it has created a problem with homelessness and petty theft which is overburdening the Kingdom’s resources.  In short, Saudi Arabia doesn’t want them.

When I arrived in Ethiopia it was mass chaos at the airport.  Reason being because Saudi Arabia rounded up over 23,000 Ethiopians who were in the country illegally, put them on planes, and flew them back to Ethiopia.  When the planes landed Ethiopia was unwilling to accept the passengers because none of them had any legal documents.  So the Saudi planes dumped the passengers and their luggage on the tarmac and took off!  You could actually see the chaos from the terminal.  There is a huge field directly behind the Ethiopian airport where the passengers and their luggage were camped out because the customs officials didn’t know how to handle the situation.  By the time I arrived this situation had already been compounding for almost a week.  In the end I didn’t stick around to see what happened with Ethiopia’s repatriated citizens.  I did stop in Ethiopia for a few days last month and the temporary refugee camp which had been set up adjacent to the runway back in November had been dismantled.  I also saw newspaper reports stating Saudi Arabia had plans to return as many as 80,000 Ethiopian citizens, so it will be a considerable ongoing project.

Though I am about to be considered an illegal alien I don’t believe Botswana will go to such extreme measures to forcibly remove me from the country and give me a free ride home.  But after some of the challenges I’ve had during my stay here and the stress resulting from my immigration/residence permit drama I’m starting to feel a little homesick and wouldn’t mind a quick departure.  When I do get back to the U.S. at the end of the summer I may just jump across the desk and hug the passport control officer than stamps me back into the country.


  1. We'll be glad you have you back! I assume that you will not be staying for another year?

    1. NO! Definitely NOT staying another year. This Immigration fiasco made it an easy decision.