Bangladesh Doesn’t Need Tourism—We Need Visa Parity

Bangladesh is not a tourist destination; I see no possibility of becoming one in near future, and there is nothing wrong in it. On the contrary, I am rather happy that it is not. Tourists are a nuisance, and tourism based economies are vulnerable. Thank god we are not dependent on tourism in the middle of a pandemic.

I think, not even 5% of the tourist visa and on arrival visa holders are tourists, they are primarily here for work, be it paid or unpaid. Tourism is an extension of their work trips. If that’s the case, then a tourist visa shouldn’t cover their purpose legitimately anyway, that means all the visa-on-arrival holders breach the visa terms.

Bangladesh should stop giving visa-on-arrival to all countries that do not reciprocate, and enforce the same amount of visa fees as they charge Bangladeshi citizens for visa applications. It wouldn’t harm anything or anyone, as de facto we have no tourists. Since they come for work, they can and should afford to plan ahead, apply for a visa and pay the fees. It is time to kick some asses.

The UK embassy in Dhaka for example, is among the most notorious for visa fees. Last time I checked, it was about $900 USD for a multi-entry tourist visa with 5 year validity, non-refundable whether you get it or not. They change the visa fees based on the validity duration, that proves that the fee is not for covering the administrative costs, since clearly, processing the same application and printing the same visa sticker shouldn’t cost differently, as the validity is just a number in the print. They are simply siphoning money out of thousands of random applicants.

While all visa centres or embassies treat the applicants as if they are criminals wrongfully pleading not-guilty. I cancel many plans and say “no” to invitations just out of the resentment of applying for yet another visa. I vehemently hate their smugness, their entitlements and often blatantly classist and racist behaviour.

With a straight face, I once asked the German Ambassador at a social event, why did their embassy make me stand in the rain in a queue while I had no way to protect my papers in hand, why their embassy did not even offer a mere shelter from rain… (it was on Gulshan avenue back then), he apologised and said the new embassy building on Madani Avenue will have better facilities to accommodate visitors—false promises; the new Maison Franco-Allemande still make everyone from 70 years old to children stand in the sun and rain on the sidewalk. They have a tiny shade extended to the sidewalk that barely can shelter 5-10 people. This is just an example, the scenario is same or worse in every other embassy in Dhaka.

While local elites never talk about these issues, since, having an ordinary green passport is a matter of shame to us, you are a gorib if you do not have a foreign passport or any backdoor access to western embassies. We either have those access, or a second foreign passport to avoid seeing this face of embassies in Bangladesh.

Bottomline, reciprocate; if they don’t give VoA, we shouldn’t, if they charge hundreds of dollars for visa applications, we should do the same. It’s high time. Fuck em all.

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