First Hand Experience Of Passport Discrimination

I have long heard terrifying tales of other Liberians of their experience while travelling either from or to Liberia from other parts of the world but for some reason, I felt their tales were a tad exaggerated.

Earlier this year, I had the worst travelling experience ever, while travelling back from the United States to Liberia. Initially, I was booked to return on SN Brussels, but, had to change due to the attack on the Brussels Airport. We got changed to travel back home on “Royal” Air Maroc.

Initially I was simply relieved that my travel dates hadn’t changed and said to myself “I just need to get home”. But little did I know what was in store for me. And others actually.

My first hint of what was to come was when we disembarked in Morocco. We got herded to room where an airport attendant who didn’t seem to speak any English beyond “Hello, Go There” scanned passports at the entrance of a room that seemed at the time after a long flight, the gateway to the Promised Land.

I noticed quickly that some people were allowed into the room, while others were directed to some other vague room down the hall.

When it was my turn at the door, I handed my passport to the security personnel who didn’t open it, just took one look at it and pointed me down the hall and said “Go. There”, pointing down the hall to a place I could not easily understand.

That was when I noticed that those who were being directed down the hall all had one thing in common: Liberian passports.

Those with American passports, Scandinavian passports or British or EU books were being allowed into the “promised land”.

Mind you, I had seen several Liberians whom I knew were all going the same destination as I was- Liberia- being allowed to enter, but because they had the “right book”, gained access.

So I took my weary self down the hall to find out where the other rejects were heading.

That’s when my nightmare really started.

The layover time was 13 hours. 13 long hours. I was tired. Sleepy. Hungry. I was having visions of a shower, nice bed and some sleep till the flight at 9/10pm. I even had illusions of prolong internet access where I could work while I waited the 13 hours away.

Ha! Illusions indeed!

We waited for 45 minutes for the airport attendant to call a shuttle for us. All this time siting on a bench. Like a reject. A prisoner.

In my mind I am still thinking ok, 13 hours, one already gone, we still got 12 more to go, they will take us to a nice hotel where we could rest.

More illusions.

It seems I had serious illusions of grandeur.

We got piled into a shuttle that took us to a building about a minute away. I walked into a large room with chairs and thought “this must be the hotel waiting area”. Little did I know, that this would be my comfortable illustrious waiting place for the next 9 plus hours!

Apparently some of the other Liberians had been on this route and knew the drill, me, “Johnny-Just-Come” was standing, looking around expectantly.

Then I noticed folks scrambling quickly for couches that were placed near electrical outlets and being a quick study (and possessing an immense love and connection to my slowly dying cell phone) I found a couch too, near a socket and sat.

I looked around then I saw others folding their bags near them and curling up to sleep. I looked at the chair, my “resident stopping place” as we say in Liberia which had a chair cover on it. The cover seemed like it hadn’t been near water in awhile. There were some questionable stains on it that had me mentally creeping.

But, it was either that or the floor or sharing a couch with someone else. No one seemed ready to have me share, plus, they all seemed unkempt.

So I spread my shawl (thank God for the forethought to travel with one) on the filthy looking couch and sat.

That’s when I heard the loud conversations (ehn you know us Liberians and loud talking ehn?) from a group near by who started lamenting the way Liberians and other west Africans are treated when travelling through Morocco. Where those (even

blacks) with USA, European or other passports get sent to a nice hotel where they receive meals and have access to internet, etc. but those with west African passports are brought here.

I decided like a few others I had noticed previously, to get on my computer and catch up on emails.

Ha! I worked for like one hour then I noticed that I was not connecting to the internet. That’s when I found out that you only get one hour of internet in the “lounge”.

I was not perturbed and decided to still work on my computer, minus the internet.

That’s when I noticed an influx of new arrivals. Within seconds the place became even noisier. It seemed the new arrivals had a lot of young children with them and the children were cranky from their own long flight I guess and decided to play out the tantrums on their weary mothers. Some of the mothers just allowed them to scream and cry their guts away while they pretended the kids didn’t exist. 20160328_120112

One child even puke right there and that mess sat exposed for nearly 30 minutes before a custodian came by to clean it up. The mother was unfazed.

By 1, I saw people standing in line and heard the other Liberians muttering “lunch”.

I was not so hungry because I had had the smarts to travel with lots of nuts and snacks, but I needed to drink. So when I the lines went down a bit, I went up to get a few bottles of water. That’s when I was told oh no. you get one. I asked if I could buy a second bottle and was told No.

I took a glance at the “food” that was being given to the others and it took Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a host of Angels to help me not to puke like that child that threw the tantrum earlier.


The Food

When I got back to my now endearing couch, another traveler had encroached on my territory and made himself quite at home, with legs up. Hahaha

Of course I wouldn’t ask him to leave, and so, I had to share the couch with him for the next several hours, with no opportunity to lie back and sleep.

At about 5:00pm, an announcement was made for those travelling on so so and so flight to please go down stairs and get on the shuttle.

By then, I knew not to have any good expectations and I was right.

We got taken to the airport terminal where for a few blessed minutes, I again had access to internet and could quickly send notice to my family and check emails. Then of course, the joy was short-lived.

This time, there was no electrical outlet where I could charge my phone or computer as the one or two I saw around the terminal were being hogged by other travelers who seemed to guard it in a fierce, territorial manner that dared you to be brave enough to approach their sacred charging outlet.

By 7:00, I noticed that those who had been separated from us early in the morning, those with the “right passports” had been brought back in. That’s when I heard the odd “Liberian-American” series and the words I really find condensing and stupid “ Your Liberian people, your hello oh”.

Your Liberian people.

Not long after, boarding call was announced and we all filed into our flights back to Liberia.

The few blissful minutes of internet I had, I sent a picture of the food, the place to a friend and he said, we Liberians always complain, we need do anything about stuff. I told him, “well, I intend not to fly with them again and I will write a blog on my experience. Hopefully that will start an open conversation on how we can start to hold these airlines more responsible to us who are customers and paying same money as those with the “right passports”.

Do you have the right passport or the wrong passport?

Have you experienced the Royal Air Maroc superb hospitality?

Share your thought and stories. Lets start this dialogue.


11 thoughts on “First Hand Experience Of Passport Discrimination

  1. I have had similar experience on Royal Air Moroc but this time travelling to the USA from Liberia. With an airport of that, one will expect things to be conducted in the right form and show decency of human dignity but that wasn’t the case. Because of my passport, I along with others holding African passport was treated with no respect. We were being yell at and pushed around like cattles. There was no sign to indicate or direct you to where your next airport procedure will take place. We had to figure things out the hard way. The worst part was because we didn’t know our way around and with no one to help, not even airport securities was willing to help. We were being insulted in their language. I heard and knew for sure because I too understand arabic to some extend. I just did not have the time and I promise to not bring myself to their level of indiscipline behaviors. When you missed your flight due to their inability to help, you were on your own cause there were few other Africans who were left behind and there was no one to assist. It got to the point that these Africans almost beat the living hell out of them before higher up management was called in. We need not be treated this way even if we were paying $5 Liberian Dollars to get on their flights. We paid for service and should be treated in the right way. Regardless if you are not to leave their airport because you do not have the So CALLED RIGHT PASSPORTS, YOU SHOULD STILL BE TREATED WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT. That’s what HUMANS do.

  2. I had similar experience with this same air lines. I refused to eat and I could not sleep because of the uncomfortable scent that came out from the sofa. In addition to the horrible transit resting center, their approach to black skin people is terrible. I took a bowl of fruits that I bought in the terminal at JFK Airport on the flight because I did not want to eat the food that they had on the plane. After the general eating time, one of the flight attendants came around to collect the trash. She refused to take mine because It was not served on the plane. I told her that your policy allowed me to bring this bowl on the plane and you are refusing to take it. She told me to get up and walk to the bathroom to drop the bowl. I immediately told her that it was in her dream that I will do that. Another attendant came later and collected the bowl.
    This conversation is important because the services provided on some of these airlines are terrible and we are all customers paying the same money as per the class you are sitting in. Let’s discuss this for a change.

  3. There are two things can be done about the situation. 1, Liberians need to stop flying with that airline until they can improve on common decency.
    Secondly and most importantly, the airline has nothing to do with immigration procedures. The Liberian foreign ministry has to work on better protecting our people overseas, through diplomacy. Until they do, things like this will continue to happen. So let’s fix our problems at home and our treatment overseas will improve.

  4. I had similar experience in Dubai recently bcus I wasn’t having American or European passport I slept in the airport. I had 12 hours layover in Dubai and I had to sleep in the airport. They said after 8 hours you are are going to get a hotel room but I didn’t,this is so unfair. When is the petition going to be available cus I want to sign it with my bones all over it.

  5. My contribution is simple: Not until we start respecting ourselves here at home others simply won’t respect us. The solution starts with us…right here from home…right here in Liberia!

  6. Sorry that happened to you but every country required VISA to leave their airport. You embassy should have informed you of the VISA requirement in Morocco but even your own embassy officials don’t care about your safety. If you research, you will notice that Americans, British and the other countries you mention have a 3 months VISA waver with Morocco. There they’re allow to leave the Airport and wonder around in Morocco for as long as the please. Liberia doesn’t, therefore taking you to a hotel will means allowing you into their country without VISA. I’m sure, if you had a Moroccan VISA, they would have allowed you out. I found out all these on my last trip to Liberia through Morocco.

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