Global Conference in Prague, 2023 Perspective Travel

Does your passport have good vibes?

Illustration made with Canva (YJI

PRAGUE – Oh, what a joy it must be to have passport privilege!

As I take out my passport placed in a ziplock bag out of my pouch from the farthest, most unreachable corner of my backpack, my Cypriot friend removes her EU identity card from her wallet, stashed next to her credit cards.

Viktorie Goldmannová/YJI Click on the image to see more ‘Postcards from Prague.’

There is a certain culture of protecting your passport that I noticed and related to in my peers with less powerful passports. These mere papers contain gems more valuable than anything in the world – an American tourist visa, a Schengen, a Canadian study permit.

And most importantly, stamps that prove you are “one of the good ones” and will hopefully help you continue to get the different visas you’re required to have to get to the places you want or need to be. The arrival and departure stamps prove that you have not overstayed your visit as a citizen of a country that does not have access to some of the citizenship rights in the global north.

As we proceeded to board our plane to Istanbul in the Prague airport, we were surprised to see that our gate was all the way at the back, past a security check that some gates did not require. The planes flying from the gates that did not have any security check were flying within the EU while our Turkish Airlines flight and an EgyptAir flight were separated from the rest.

It is inevitably an upsetting experience to go through different security measures and jump through hurdles to access what someone born in a luckier geography doesn’t have to think twice about.

In addition to being time consuming, getting a visa also drains your bank account. You were born bureaucratically lucky if you don’t recognize the name of the company VFS Global, which is an intermediary company that one has to go through to get a visa such as a Schengen.

I found myself explaining to my friend from Hong Kong how hard it was for me to get a visa to study in Canada. My fellow Turkish friend chimed in and talked about how she almost wasn’t able to make this trip because her Schengen visa was significantly delayed. 

She said that if it wasn’t for an American organization stating her reason for travel, she would have almost definitely been denied a visa.

For holders of the standard red Turkish passport, Schengen visa refusal rates have doubled since 2019, according to statistics provided by euronews.

I feel the anxiety creeping as Canada tightens its immigration policy regarding international students. I hope to get the chance to complete my Bachelor’s degree at the university I worked day and night to get into, in the country my mother sent me away to with teary eyes. She wanted me to have the opportunity of a better future.

We are all humans living on Earth. But only a certain portion of us – born within lines someone drew on a map – have access to global citizenship rights.

Bilge Güven is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Istanbul and wrote this commentary.

Lyat Melese is a Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from the United States and took the group selfie below.

Lyat Melese, left, the author, center, and Usraat Fahmidah in Prague with Youth Journalism International. (Lyat Melese/YJI)

Read more from YJI’s ‘Postcards from Prague’ series about the 2023 Global Conference.

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