So there I was. Counting the minutes at the Gate 7 at the Colombo International Airport since 5 O’clock in the morning. I had arrived early, the Emirates flight carrying my kiddos were due at 8.30 am. Nope, I’m not bonkers to drive to the airport that early, it just so happened that I arrived in the island the same morning.
After what felt like an eternity – and a few random conversations with some strangers on transit – the kids arrive sound and safe as I flipped the pages of Who moved my Cheese for the umpteenth time.
Hugs, kisses and pleasantries exchanged, documents signed and kids are “formally” handed over to me by the ground staff. And off we go – rushing to meet my wife who has been eagerly waiting at the arrivals lounge. We proceed to the immigration counter and I produce all three passports. The immigration officer punches a few keys on his computer and informs me that the kiddos aren’t eligible for visa on arrival. Me being the Paradisian, has no issues, but my own kids aren’t allowed entry to the country.
He tells me that there are only 80-odd eligible countries in the list and the passports that my kids carry aren’t in the list. I know they are, this isn’t the first time they are visiting the island.
I request the officer to check by the passport numbers – since they’d previously held Sri Lankan Residence Visa the reference should be in their system. Bloody hell, this is my country and my kids should be granted visa on arrival, even if they came from Mars.
As I peep across the counter to see what’s going on, I discover the officer punching-in the passport number without selecting the matching country from the drop-down menu. The guy hammers the “enter” key even without glancing at the screen.
The result: Afghanistan. The country at the top of the list. And no visa for Afghans on arrival.
I grit my teeth, take a deep breath, count to 10 and ask him to select the country carefully. The blithering idiot repeats the same performance and insists that I should have applied for kids visa before arriving in the island..!
I was too tired to argue with idiots, or to spare him a lesson from Computer for Dummies. I demand to see his immediate boss.
The supervisor checks the kids’ passports, puts a note on the disembarkation cards, walks over to the same counter and orders the man to stamp the passports. The circus monkey stamps the passports and enters the details – yet again under “Afghanistan” in the computer. Suddenly, I had kids who are related to Mulla Omar and those long-bearded extremists that sleep with their goats.
I have no idea how many tourists were awarded the Afghan nationality that morning at the Colombo International Airport. Hope none had any issues on their departure.
At least my two didn’t, thankfully.