Monday, September 27, 2010

A Shock in Copenhagen

I had 2 surreal experiences as I arrived at Copenhagen Airport from Istanbul on Saturday night.

1. I noticed something on Wednesday BEFORE we went to Istanbul, but did not think much about it until the very same thing happened to us on Saturday.

As soon as we walked off the plane, barely even into the airport, 3 customs agents stood at the door, asking to see our passports. They had done the same thing to the group of passengers who deplaned before we departed on Wednesday. However they were not there to stamp our passports; they were there to see if there were any passengers on board seeking asylum. I had never experienced this before in an airport, but I guess that is because I have never flown in from an area where this might be an issue. 

They were very nice as I showed them my passport and residency card and sent me on my way very quickly, which was good as I was tired and not feeling very well. However, the experience made me wonder. What would have happened if I or someone on the plane HAD been seeking asylum? I was thinking about how tired and ragged I was, but my fatigue was from a 4 day tourist excursion; an asylum seeker arrives with MUCH more tiredness and stress than I could even fathom, so I wondered....

How would they have been treated? 
Where would they have been sent? 
Would they have been made to feel safe and welcomed? 
Of course, I have no answers to these questions, but the experience really did prick my heart as I thought more about it.....

2. One of my colleagues went through Passport Control right after I did on Saturday night, and as we stood together at baggage claim a few minutes later, she told me about something she overheard after I walked through...something that really shocked me.

I had handed the woman in Passport Control my passport and residency card. She looked at both, looked at me (of course, never smiling! LOL), looked at both again, looked at me again, and then stamped my passport on the page where my visa sticker to Turkey was placed. I said "thank you" (PÅ DANSK); she said nothing, and I went on my way.

When my colleague walked up to show her passport, she heard one agent say to the other:
"That was an American that just came through."
The other's reply was:
"Really? Are you serious?"

OK... Did she expect us to have three heads? Or had she really never seen "one of us" before? I was so shocked by the agent's amazement... Working in the Copenhagen International Airport... and sitting there in disbelief that a REAL, LIVE AMERICAN had just come through her line. 

If I had not been so tired, I might have gone back and asked if she wanted to take a photo with me to show her friends and family. 


Stephanie said...

Did you go through the EU line instead of the Non-EU line because you are a resident? They aren't used to having non-EU people in the EU line and are supposed to ask for other documentation if they do.

May said...

I'm surprised it never happened to you before this. I've had my passport checked several times like this where they were waiting right as you come off the plane - not, as far as I remember in Copenhagen, but in Amsterdam and Zürich.

Once someone, I think it was in Amsterdam, was held back. It was all done nice and politely, but of course I have no idea of what happened afterward.

monica said...

Wow! She might have said that because of the fact you had just come from a trip to a predominantly Muslim country? I am assuming that Americans don't travel "alone" to and from Istanbul often from DK who have "perm. residency status". So perhaps that is what doesn't happen every day. (Yes, I know where assumptions get us, but it is just a thought) :) Do tell more! ;)

MoMo 2.0 said...

Stephanie, this time there was only one line open. It was not delineated for EU or Non-EU.

And Monica, there were many people in line...not just those of us from our Turkish airlines flight... by the time you get to Passport control, you have converged into a line with other arriving flights.. so who knows?!
I just thought it was soooo odd!

Caution/Lisa said...

Since I know NOTHING about ANYTHING I'm just assuming that it was your flawless Danish accent that got her.

United Studies said...

I would agree with Caution was your perfect Danish accent!