Vera Kichanova, a member of Russian Libertarian Party, has recently shared this post on Facebook voicing her opinion on border control, which I think is very on point.
From now on I officially refuse to call a person libertarian if he or she supports immigration restrictions. I don’t know what image comes to your mind when you are complaining about “evil immigrants”, but next time, just for a moment, could you please imagine me, a harmless 26-year-old student living in London who repeatedly has to give up her plans because of border control.
I guess I’m starting to understand what they mean by “check your privilege”. If you were lucky to be born in the right country you probably don’t know how it feels when you are planning a trip and the visa costs you more than the trip itself; or when you have to cancel your voyage and lose a great deal of money because your visa was rejected; or when you are approaching the passport control without knowing whether you’ll end the day at home or in the detention center.
For two years, I’ve been splitting my time between Moscow and Kiev. And the two countries I both consider my motherlands were treating me as a criminal suspect. Every time I was entering Ukraine I had to prove I’m not one of those Putin’s spies. Every time I was entering Russia I had to prove that I’m not a national traitor. And yes, I have a stamp in my passport saying “Banned from the Republic of Belarus” with no end date (which means until Lukashenko is in power).
Last year I was supposed to start my PhD course but I got trapped into a vicious circle: to become enrolled as a student I had to get a visa first; to get a visa I had to secure enough funding first; but to get a scholarship I needed to get enrolled first. I took me half a year to break this circle – the time I would have happily spent on my dissertation.
You know what upsets me most about all this? If I were living in the same place for my whole life and working in same office from 9 to 5 I’d never face any of these obstacles. This system works perfectly for people whose lives are predictable – immigration officers rarely have any questions for them. But this system punishes the most flexible and entrepreneurial ones. If you are moving from one place to another endlessly seeking for opportunities you have to prove all over again that you’re “acceptable, respectable, presentable”.
Yes, I know it can be much worse. After all, it’s nothing compared to the actual Iron Curtain. Fortunately, I never had to risk my life trying to escape the country (though some of my friends did). But the fact that it can be worse doesn’t justify the way it is. And if you think this is nice, and fair, and compatible with liberty, I have bad news for you.