I know I have slacked for the entire month of June about blogging… and a lot has happened in that month. The books for the Books For Africa project I’ve taken over have arrived in Tamatave and are currently stuck in customs. I had my Close of Service conference with Peace Corps and will officially be leaving the island on September 9th (onwards to Kenya/Uganda/Ethiopia!!). My Dad will be arriving (with homemade cookies!!!) tomorrow to see this hunk of land I’ve been camped out on for the past two years.
And… a fellow American and I were stopped for being potential illegal immigrants.
Every time I have told this story to other PCVs (and expats in general) they always interrupt me here to exclaim — “who the f– would illegally immigrate to Madagascar?!?” I’ll get to that.
It started when a Malagasy police officer stopped the two of us as we were walking around town looking for breakfast and taking photos. When the police officers started yelling “eh! eh! eh!” at us, I thought they were mad at my friend for snapping an accidental shot of them. Easy problem to solve, right? We’ll just delete it, say sorry, and be on our way.
But I was wrong. Instead:
Officer: “Can we see your passports?”
Me: “Passport? Why? Here’s my resident card…”
The tall, well-fed officer and his two assistants (all donning very official looking, laminated badges dangling from lanyards) took a full five minutes to decipher the card and write down my information — all was good — but started to give us trouble because my friend had left his passport and copy of his passport at the hotel.
Officer: “You’re going to have to come to the station and present it later,”
Me: “But we already have plans, we left the passport at the hotel because there’s lots of thieves. We were afraid of getting robbed.”
Officer: “You need to come to the station.”
Me: “Why are you checking our passports anyways? I’ve lived here for two years and no one has ever asked me for this.” (With the exception of one police officer who, I swear, stopped our whole taxi-brousse just to flirt with my friend, using the passport check as an excuse to talk with us).
Officer: “There’s a big problem with illegal immigrants”
Me: “From where?” (This is when I was thinking ‘who the f– would illegally immigrate to Madagascar??’)
Officer: “The Comoros”
Me: “Do I look like I’m from the Comoros?”
Officer: *Small chuckle* “No, passport please.”
Me: “He left it in the hotel, can’t we just pay you some fee so we don’t have to come back?”
At this point the officer got incredibly offended that I tried to bribe him, and I was equally shocked that he wasn’t taking the bribe.
In the end, we walked away and I was in an outrage at how pointless the whole ordeal had been. Seriously, us illegal immigrants in one of the 10 poorest countries on earth?! The absurdity!! Couldn’t these guys be spending their time doing more productive things? Later, we did end up going to the station and were a little creeped out when everyone knew my name already and had been expecting me (I don’t think the could have pronounced my friend’s name). We figured that they had made such a big fuss about seeing our visas because of the upcoming elections that were scheduled, rescheduled, and now postponed indefinitely, because he wanted to prove that he had been doing actual work before his post came up for elections as well.
Whatever it is, I promise you all, I am not trying to illegally immigrate to Africa.
4 replies on “Really Officer, I’m Not an Illegal Immigrant”
Makes me remember a passport CHECK ,by a seemingly doped ,armed soldier, when my wife and i were about to board an evening train at Jammu in India.That was our scariest ever experience and we really feared for our lives that time.It seemed to us that soldier could have opened fire for no reason, then and there.He managed to give us back our passports when the train started moving.May be he was trying to impress his superiors or what?Communicating to them in their language in such situations can prove to be a disadvantage…i found out !
Agreed! Sometimes it’s better just to play dumb, especially if you know they don’t speak English.
Dumbasses. I’ve had police officers stop the minibus for too long a couple of times just to talk to me. Sometimes law enforcement just gets too bored.
True, I mean, wouldn’t you if all you were doing was collecting bribes? I’ve also learned that police officers are the worst kind of creeps — I can’t be mean to a guy with an AK, and I usually give those jerks a lot of sass.