As world travellers, we often feel like we have worked hard to trot the globe. We’ve overcome losing all our baggage in a new country, the challenges of not speaking the language, and the overall difficulty of assimilation into a new culture. But, we often overlook our own privilege to have these experiences.
I recently went out for dinner with a local friend that I’ve made in Iraq. As we talked, the conversation winded into where in the world we would like to visit. We had many similar destinations on our list. The only difference was that I, the owner of an Italian and an American passport, could travel to all these countries easily and he, the owner of an Iraqi passport, would probably never get to.
Iraqi passport holders are granted visa-free access (or visa upon arrival) to only 31 countries. The only country with worse travel access is Afghanistan, with visa free access to 28 countries. My passports guarantee me free access to 172 countries. That’s 141 countries I can waltz into at the drop of a hat that he cannot.
What gives me the right to travel to my heart’s content and condemns him to remain in a fragmented country?
It would be unfair of me to decry all visas as the new Jim Crow laws upholding inequality, because I understand that they are put in place for security reasons. But at some level, I have to question their effectiveness. My friend is a generous person and an upstanding businessman. He started from nothing and worked his way through life to achieve the success he has today. And yet, despite having a U.S. senator’s recommendation letter for visa approval, he has been denied access to the United States multiple times.
I’m not arguing his case, but I am questioning the system. What gives me the right to travel to my heart’s content and condemns him to remain in a fragmented country? I may work hard and earn the money I use to travel, but I will never have to work as hard as he will just to leave home.
The world is at my feet, and those of us who are lucky enough to haphazardly have been born into a free country need to realize that birthright is an accident of birth, not right.Add this article to your reading list