Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Soft touch Colombia

I’ve written before about what could be seen as the absurdity of the ‘free world’ concept.* There are many areas where it just doesn’t hold, but the one I previously focused on was in the global movement of people.

Border hopping. Colombia seems a little more welcoming for some foreigners over others.
'On your return, don't bother with a visa. You'll be grand.'
Basically, anyone who has travelled to another country realises how relative any perceived freedom is. For sure, depending on where you happen to be born, having the liberty to move to wherever you want is easier for some compared to others. Just ask Colombians for a less than positive experience in that regard.

Focusing on this country, perhaps the people’s negative migration dealings have made them somewhat sympathetic to the ‘plight’ of those visiting here, or more pertinently, those who want to stay on a longer-term basis. A case of, ‘if we continue to be welcoming, especially to peoples from the West, in time they will be more welcoming towards us.’ It’s a nice thought, if a little naïve.

Considering, broadly speaking, I am for a freer movement of people across borders with less restrictions and bureaucracy for those who want to settle in their non-birth country – especially if they are not a burden on their new state – the Colombian approach, in general, is quite refreshing.

However, for a state that is trying to be taken seriously among the global powers, having a modicum of sense to the system wouldn’t go astray. For judging by anecdotal evidence, the way Colombian immigration control currently operates encourages illegality.

For example, there are foreigners here who have knowingly overstayed their respective visas for a considerable amount of time, with some of these repeat offenders. When they do finally decide to ‘sort out’ their situation, what tends to happen is that they get a token fine and can get another visa with little difficulty, without a black mark to their name.

The answer is Colombia; & it's easier without a visa. (Image from colombia.co.)
Contrast that with those who erroneously stay a day or two over their visa and once they realise this immediately make efforts to rectify the situation. The fine these people get is practically the same as the knowing, long-term, repeat offenders. Plus, as luck would have it, I know of some people in this latter, ‘law-abiding’ category who have then struggled to get another visa. 

Thus, there appears little incentive to do things by the book. Indeed it appears you’re more likely to spend less money and have less hassle if you just hang around illegally and deal with the problem at a time that suits you, paying little attention to what’s stamped in your passport.

Now to state again, in theory I like the idea of having light-touch regulation as regards immigration. Yet, what I don’t like are double standards. It could be argued that Colombian authorities are supporting lawbreakers over 'law-abiders'. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised about that.

Hats off, though, for doing their bit for a ‘freer world’. They could just try and make it a bit fairer.
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*Check out Phantom freedom for more on that.

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