I am a Maldivian, who is studying in UK. I have been living in UK for the past five years and have always been keen in travelling and exploring other places and cultures of the world.
For much of the westerns and other nations, Maldives is heaven on earth. It is a paradise they all highly value and dream of visiting for once at least in their life time. For they are all true regarding this. And I have no doubt their dream holidays are nothing beyond perfect and excellent during their visit to Maldives.
But they don’t enjoy Maldives only because of its sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. Nor it is only due to the exotic resorts or the delicious food. It is all about the hospitality and the welcome they recieve as well. Maldivians are well known to host their visitors with utmost care and excellent treatment. From the time the forigners land in Maldives and until they leave, they are always treated with a smile. They never face any difficulties or problems at the airport, transit to their hotel, stay in the resort and journey back to the airport. We serve them well with proficiency and excellence. This is how Maldivians are.
But I would like to tell you all some of the experiences I have faced while travelling to other countries. I have to say unfortunately I didn’t face the very same hospitality I expected despite the fact I was also paying for my trip just like the way other foreign visitors do when they travel to Maldives. My passport clearly says on its first page that the Foreign Minister requests the bearer of it to pass Maldivian national to pass freely without any problems for me. I guess this must be their in every country’s passport and to be honest no one cares about what is written on that page.
I went on a trip to Europe trip this winter. I was travelling on a Schengen Visa. I visited Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and France. I was travelling with my study friends who were all British citizens and there was one Malaysian citizen too with us.
At each airport of the above mentiones countries, the immigration stopped me and asked lots of questions which made me feel very unwelcome and uncomfortable. Despite having the Schengen visa and all other travelling documents like tickets and travel cheques, I found myself subjected to unnecessary scrutiny by these immigrations. The French and the German immigration were the worst. My British colleagues passed the immigration in less than a second, without facing a single question from no one. I am not surprised for them as they are EU nationals, but what surprised me was my Malaysian friend. He was treated just like the British nationals and he did not face any questions from them. He even didn’t need prior visa to enter these countries. I was very surprised.
Here I am visiting some countires in Europe who send thousands of tourists to my country every day and I have been treated like some alien trying to intrude in to their property or something. It was very upsetting and I hope no other Maldivian faces this. May be the Maldivian diplomatic passport holders might not face what I have been through, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t simple ordinary maldivians like me who do travel through europe. I believe its time the Maldivian goverment (I mean all of you) try and work more harder with the Schengen blog to include Maldives in their Visa Waiver List. This would make Maldivians travel free without hastle in the EU, just like for Malaysians.
The previous governments foreign minister Mr Fathuhullah Jameel has travelled all around the world on his diplomatic passport but never bothered to do this during his long FM job. But can you all (the new government) do this for us, for the sake of simple ordianry Maldivian Passport holders? I don’t think Maldivians are a risk for the EU as we have visa free entry to UK and Ireland as well. The government could bridge this as a promoting factor for us to get into the Schengen blog. Can you all please do your best to get us travel free and avoid the difficulties at immigration at EU countries? I hope you all will work hard for this and this is my request as a Maldivian from you all. I believe we also deserve to have freedom of movement and be treated with respect just the way we treat the EU nationals when they come to our country, don’t we?
The next I experienced was during last year summer. I was going back home, Male’ from London. My flight was stopping at Dubai and it was a long transit of more than 24 hours.
I didn’t want to stay this long period inside the airport building and so thought of going out to see the city of dubai during this long transit period. To my surprise I needed a visa to go out. I don’t understand why. A person from Lithuania doesn’t need a visa to enter Dubai but here I am, a Maldivian, whose country has more close ties with Dubai needs a visa to see the city for just 24 hours. Any ways I asked for a visa which they issued me for US$75.
Now that’s a lot for a visa of 24 hours, isn’t it? And not only this, the authorities who issued the visa were utterly rude and unprofessional. They were very nice and pleasant with the white Europeans but I noticed they were very different with tone and customer relations with the dark skinned asians. And I was one of them.
I could not believe all this and I was very dissapointed. I did visit Doha also a year ago and faced a similar situation. I had to pay a visa fee to enter Doha too just for two days. I don’t think this is the way we should be treated. Maybe it is an arab thing, I don’t know, but I didn’t deserve it. I don’t think Arabs are treated like that when they visit Maldives. First of all we give them more respect I think because they are Muslims. Secondly they all get to enter Maldives free of visa without having a penny to pay for it. So why did I have to face the opposite when I visited their coutries? They are more rich in natural resources than Maldives and yet I have to pay for visa to see their country but they don’t have to pay nothing to see my country.
This is not fair. Plus I have to face discrimination and rude behavious from them when we treat them with respect and dignity. I believe these things have to addressed at formal level by all of you with these Arab and other countries. And I don’t think its fair to give them free visas when they charge so much from us to visit their country. May be its time and best that Maldives government also charge a visa fee from them too. I am sure their nationals are capable of paying the same visa fee I paid to see their cities for few hours or days. Plus the visa fee could generate some income to our economy too just like the way ot helps theirs. So I think it is better to bring some changes to the famous ’30 day free visa on arrival to Maldives’, maybe make some countries not included in this famous logo.
Maldivians are not generally big time travellers. But there are lots of us who do travel, aspire travelling and wants to travel. If all of you and the government make travel easy for us by asking other countries to make us visa free and provide hastle free immigrations, it can put more maldivians into travelling. Travelling bridges societies and cultures. It opens hearts and unites people. It makes us realise about others in this world and helps us more to realise how much more is there to life. So please can you all work on this. Make travelling easy for us. Ask other governments to make visa free for Maldivian citizens. At the moment there are just a handful of countries where we can go without a visa. I was very surprised to know that I need a visa to enter even Morocco as a tourist, a country whose national made us all muslims. So I guess the foreign ministry needs to do a lot of work.
I appreciate the new look of the website of our foreign ministry. But its sad to know it doesn’t contain a list of the countries where Maldivian citizens can travel to, as a tourist, without a visa. I think this list is very important and should be there on the ministries website (always up tp date). Also surprisingly there is no proper contact email address (for Maldivians) of the ministry given on the website.
I hope this letter is not offensive to any one of you. The purpose of this letter is to let you all know how an ordinary maldivian feels when he is subjected to such taunt by other countries immigrations. And its not my fault that I need a visa to enter those coutries. I hope you all will try to work with other foreign governments to make us visa and hastle free when we travel to other coutnries. For we are all humans and we all deserve freedom of movement, respect and dignity.
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