The emigration department

Satirical coat of arms for South Sudan

A short comedy about racism and police brutality. 9 min read.

South Sudan Department of Emigration. A young man is waiting in line to receive his emigration visa. Finally, it is his turn, and he approaches the clerk.

CLERK: Name?

DAVID: David Halim.

The clerk shuffles through some papers.

CLERK: (muttering to himself) David Halim, David Halim . . . ah, yes, here you are. It says here you are going to Spain.

DAVID: Eh . . . no . . . I’m going to France.

CLERK: No, you are going to Spain.

DAVID: But I don’t speak Spanish.

CLERK: Don’t worry, you will pick it up in no time. They say it’s the easiest language in the world.

DAVID: But I already speak French.

CLERK: Well, that is no use in Spain. Why did you learn French when you should have been learning Spanish?

DAVID: Because I wanted to go to France to study and then open a cheese shop.

CLERK: They have enough cheese shops in France. You can open one in Spain.

DAVID: Why can I not go to France?

CLERK: Because it says here that you are going to Spain. If you want, you can file a petition to change the destination.

DAVID: How do I do that?

CLERK: (handing him a form) You just fill out this form and bring it back to me.

DAVID: Okay. How long will it take to process?

CLERK: Eighteen to forty-five months.

DAVID: What? I can’t wait that long! My family needs me to study and work.

CLERK: Then, David Halim, I suggest you go to Spain. You can always file the petition from Spain.

DAVID: Okay, I’ll do that.

CLERK: But a foreign petition takes a little longer, because of the distance, you see.

DAVID: How much longer?

CLERK: Approximately an extra eight years . . . although your visa will only be for five years, so I suggest you go to Spain, stay there for five years, come back to South Sudan and then file a local petition.

David gives up. He shrugs his shoulders.

CLERK: Very good. Now, it says here that you will be going to La Línea de la Concepción. Do you know it?


CLERK: Total shithole. But right next door to Gibraltar.

DAVID: (perking up) Oh? I can go to Gibraltar?

CLERK: No. Your visa is only for Spain, and Gibraltar is British. If you try to enter Gibraltar they will shoot you. It even says so here, on your visa.

The clerk holds the visa up for David to see. At the bottom, in bold type, he reads: “Shoot on sight if attempting to leave country.”

DAVID: What universities do they have in La . . . what is it called?

CLERK: La . . . wait a minute. These Spanish names are too long for me. Here it is: La Línea de la Concepción. Universities? One.

DAVID: Oh, great!

CLERK: But your visa is not for studying.

DAVID: But I have to study! I was going to study business so that I could open my own shop.

CLERK: You will not be opening a cheese shop in Spain. We already have a job for you.

DAVID: You have a job for me? What is it?

CLERK: Oh, it’s a very attractive job. It’s an outdoors job, so lots of sun, lots of vitamin D, fresh air . . . you will like it a lot.

DAVID: What do I have to do?

CLERK: When you arrive, a man will give you a big white sheet with four ropes attached at each corner, and you must place fake Nike sneakers on this sheet and sell them to tourists.

DAVID: That does not sound like a good job.

CLERK: But it gets you out of the house . . . oh! We have a house for you, too!

DAVID: Yes? What is it like?

CLERK: How many people live in your house currently?

DAVID: (thinking) Well, there’s me, my four brothers, five sisters, my mother, my father, three grandparents and one aunt . . . so that makes sixteen.

CLERK: Yes, it will be about the same.

DAVID: Why are there ropes attached to the sheet?

CLERK: Ah! That is part of the game.

DAVID: Game?

CLERK: Yes, the game you will be playing every day with the police.

DAVID: Is this even a legal job?

CLERK: Legal, illegal, the lines are very blurred these days. You’re South Sudanese, you understand.

David shrugs. He understands.

CLERK: Yes, the game. So, every day, you will be standing in the street . . . I mean, in the fresh sea air . . . very refreshing . . . sea air is very good for the lungs . . . and you will be selling sneakers to tourists. And along will come Pablo Policeman, and as soon as you see him, you must immediately pick up all four ropes, pull on them to form a bag out of the sheet . . . very clever, eh? . . . and then run as fast as you can away from Pablo Policeman. And Pablo Policeman will chase you, but not very much, because he does not really want to catch you, because that would be the end of the game.

DAVID: This does not sound like a game to me.

CLERK: It is the greatest game. You are like the Road Runner, and Pablo Policeman, he is like the Wiley Coyote, and he will always be chasing you, but he will never catch you.

DAVID: How long do I have to do this?

CLERK: So, your shift begins at eight in the morning, and finishes at ten in the evening.

DAVID: No breaks?

CLERK: No breaks.

DAVID: Well, I’m used to that. That’s easy. Days off?

CLERK: No days off.

DAVID: But wait, I have to stand in the sun all day? No shade? What about heatstroke? Skin cancer? I cannot stand all day in the sun. It’s dangerous.

CLERK: What are you, a girl? Be a man! Are you a girl?

DAVID: What kind of a question is that?

CLERK: Are you a girl?

DAVID: I don’t see how–

CLERK: Are you a girl?


CLERK: Then be a man. Men stand in the sun all day.

DAVID: What about skin cancer?

CLERK: Skin cancer is something white people get. We are black. We are immune to skin cancer. Have you ever turned pink like a lobster? And then spent the whole next day crying like a baby and saying “Oh, please somebody do something! My skin is so sore! I cannot take it!” No, of course not. That is because you have real skin, the skin of a man who is designed for the sun. It is a simple fact of science: white people get skin cancer and black people do not.

DAVID: I don’t think that’s true.

CLERK: Do you want to leave South Sudan at all?

David acquiesces.

CLERK: Very well. You will go to La Línea de la Concepción and you will stand in the blistering hot sun and sell sneakers to tourists for fourteen hours a day.

DAVID: Is it always hot?

CLERK: Usually. Sometimes it rains.

DAVID: What will I do when it rains?

CLERK: You will stand in the rain and sell umbrellas to tourists for fourteen hours a day.

DAVID: Well, at least I will be protected from the rain.

CLERK: No, you must not exploit the merchandise for personal use.

DAVID: Is that everything?

The clerk rummages through the papers.

CLERK: Ah . . . no, one more thing. So, I mentioned Pablo Policeman earlier.

DAVID: Yes, we play the game where he sees me and I run and then he chases me a little before giving up.

CLERK: Yes, that is correct. There is one more thing you need to know. The police in Spain have this hobby where they like to harass young black men.

DAVID: So just like the police here.

CLERK: Yes, exactly like the police here. It is a way of letting off steam after a hard day’s work. So, from time to time, once or twice a month, they will stop you in the street for absolutely no reason, and ask you all sorts of questions about where you are from and what you are doing. They are trying to trip you up. Do not worry, it is all fun and games, you will love it. However, it is vitally important that you carry your identification with you at all times. If they stop you and you do not have any identification, they will throw you in jail. Oh, and every once in a while, they will have had a very hard day, and this will not be enough to release all the tension, so they may rough you up a little.

DAVID: What kind of things will they do to me?

CLERK: Oh, nothing bad, a little shake of the shoulders, a little tap on the nose . . . but you must try very hard to limit the amount of blood you spray onto their uniforms. They really do not like that. Try to bleed away from them.

DAVID: And what is the usual bribe amount?

CLERK: Oh, they never take bribes! They are very honest policemen. They will beat you up for free.

DAVID: (pleased) Wow! That sounds very progressive!

CLERK: Yes, they pride themselves on their tolerance. The locals, unfortunately, are less tolerant. For some reason, they do not like foreigners.

DAVID: Will they be hostile to me?

CLERK: Yes, most likely. But do not worry, it is nothing personal. They hate everybody who is not white, so if you make some Chinese friends, or Indian friends, they will help you get through the racist tough times.

DAVID: Are there many Chinese or Indian people in La Línea de la Concepción?

CLERK: (looking through the papers) Let me see . . . no.

David looks disappointed.

CLERK: Now, do you have the application fee?

DAVID: (rummaging in his pockets) Yes . . . uh, how much is it again?

CLERK: All of your money.

David lifts out all of his money and hands it to the clerk. The clerk pulls out his wallet and places the entire amount into it, then puts it back into his pocket. He then stamps David’s visa and hands it over to him.

CLERK: Oh, one more thing, while this visa is completely legal, it is not technically recognized in Spain, so you may have some trouble at the border.

DAVID: What should I do?

CLERK: Well, for an extra all of your money again, we can arrange for some people to smooth the way, by taking you there in a boat and dropping you at our own private harbor, very close to the official one, but without all the hassle of ramps and basic facilities . . . it is essentially a deserted rocky beach with a lot of angry jellyfish.

DAVID: Okay, I will need to ask everybody in my family to put together all of their money to send me there.

CLERK: A wise choice. Just to let you know . . . a formality . . . I have to tell you this for insurance purposes . . . there is a very slight possibility that you may die on the way there.

DAVID: Die? How slight?

CLERK: Well, you might have your throat slit in Libya, if they think you have any money, but since we have taken all your money, you should make sure that everybody knows you do not have any more. Then, on the boat, there is the possibility that the captain will order his crew to throw everybody overboard so that he can save money on diesel by not having to cross the Mediterranean, or the captain might simply overfill the boat and it will sink in the middle of the sea. So . . . altogether, your chances of dying are about twenty per cent.

DAVID: So, let me get this straight: you expect me to go to a land where I do not speak the language, stand in the sun all day every day contracting skin cancer–

CLERK: Black men do not get skin cancer.

DAVID: Contracting sunstroke, sell fake sneakers to tourists, use only the thirty minutes of free time I have at the end of each day to try to educate myself and improve my life, be persecuted by the authorities, physically assaulted, verbally abused by the locals, not have a single break from this never-ending nightmare, possibly even die before I have a chance to begin the nightmare, all so that I can send enough money back to my family here in South Sudan in order that they can survive their own waking nightmare?

CLERK: I would say that that is a very accurate summary.

DAVID: Okay, I’ll do it. Anything is better than what’s going on in this hellscape.

CLERK: (shaking his hand) A wise choice. I wish I was going with you.


Copyright©2017 Bohemian Breakdancer

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