As Racist As Trump

I think that most New Zealanders view their country as a warm and welcoming place for visitors. And there is evidence to support that view. In February 2017 the World Economic Forum listed New Zealand as second behind Iceland in a ranking of the world’s most tourist friendly countries. Certainly for years I basked in the belief that my country was open, honest and a decent place to visit.

But then I got involved in a Syrian refugee’s application to visit New Zealand. His name is Eyad Mosoud. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and I am his swimming coach. He is the fastest swimmer in Saudi Arabia. He recently won the Saudi University Championships and the Saudi Fins National Championships. I encouraged Eyad to swim in the New Zealand Open Championships beginning on the 4 April 2017. To do that he needed a visitor’s visa. As a Syrian refugee living in Saudi Arabia his application for a visa needed to be pre-processed at the New Zealand Embassy in Dubai. I agree with the pre-processing. New Zealand can do without some of the bad buggers who fight in that part of the world.

But Eyad is not one of those. He is a 21 year old third year Marine Engineering university student. He is bright, honest and hard working. His father is a surgeon and with his family live in Saudi Arabia to get away from the bad buggers fighting in Syria just now. So Eyad applied for a visa to visit New Zealand and I wrote to the Dubai Embassy and Immigration New Zealand in Wellington explaining the purpose of Eyad’s visit and supporting his participation in the Open Swimming Championships. I expected the application to be approved. But instead Eyad had his passport returned and received an email, written in some appalling English, asking a bizarre series of questions.

I have copied the questions below together with my reply. The information requested is so odd and so incapable of being answered it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that the New Zealand Immigration Department are exercising a Trump like ban by deception. In some ways Trump is more honest. He comes right out and says, “No Syrians allowed.” New Zealand it seems feigns a welcoming smile but makes entry impossible.

Anyway judge for yourself – here are the Dubai questions and my answers.

Visitor Visa Application

Att. Chutamard.Paibullert

Question One: There is no evidence of your travel arrangement to depart New Zealand

Eyad will answer this question.

Question Two: There is no evidence that you have registered an entry to the swimming competition in New Zealand

There is plenty of evidence Eyad is in the process of entering the Open Championships. Firstly I have told you he is entering and as coach of several Olympic athletes and a two country National Coach I would have hoped my word would have been sufficient. Secondly Eyad has been accepted as a member of Swimming New Zealand and a NZ club, the Waterhole Swimming Club in Auckland. Eyad’s entries will be processed with the other Waterhole swimmers at the appropriate time. He has paid $100 to join Swimming New Zealand and $50 to join the Waterhole Club. For your further information the qualifying times for the Open Championships are 50 free 25.48 (Eyad 24.62) 50 fly 27.66 (Eyad 27.17) 100 free 55.50 (Eyad 54.08). And finally no one in New Zealand or elsewhere has any further evidence of their entry than I have provided here, until the start lists are published one week before the competition.

Question Three: The letter from University provided does not show that you are a current student and that you will continue your bachelor degree when you return.

I have not seen the letter you refer to but I must say the fact you have a letter together with Eyad’s superior academic performance for two years suggests to me that your question is bureaucratic nonsense.

I know of no university in the world who would be prepared to vouch for any student’s further study one, two or three years into the future. If you think about it – what you are asking for is ridiculous. I don’t know about your university but the one I went to in NZ would never have guaranteed my future study ahead of time. Certainly I know Eyad is committed to completing his Marine Engineering degree.

Question Four: There is no evidence to support where will you be staying while in New Zealand, and/or any other activities you may be doing other than swimming competition during the period of 3-7 April 2017.

Eyad will be booked into the Quest Motel, Henderson, Auckland for the period of his visit – unless as might be the case we can arrange private accommodation through the club prior to his arrival.

I have no idea what you mean by other activities Eyad may be doing. He is coming here for an Open Swimming Championships. That means he will be training, sleeping and competing for all or most of the time in New Zealand. He is an international athlete who wants to win his events. Swimming, eating and sleeping are about all people like Eyad can manage. I do wonder if Venus Williams had to tell you what other activities she was going to do when she visited recently. I have no doubt that if she was her reaction would have been the same as mine. Oh, and we plan to visit the Artisan Vineyard in Henderson for lunch on the day Eyad arrives. If I take Eyad for a day trip to Waiheke Island I undertake to write to you asking permission first.

Question Five: There is no evidence to proof why you are selected to come and compete the swimming competition in New Zealand.  A letter from David Wright only says that you are the best swimmer in Saudi Arabia.

I have no idea what this question even means. The New Zealand Swimming Championships are open to any swimmer who can swim faster than the qualifying times. Eyad did not need to be selected. He only needed to swim faster than the qualifying times. And he has done that. And as for your comment referring to my letter saying Eyad is only” the best swimmer in Saudi Arabia – what is that supposed to mean. I told you that to highlight the fact that this is a serious sporting visit for which Eyad is eminently qualified. His visit to New Zealand will benefit Eyad and his competitors in New Zealand. This question along with some others appear like a Trump type Syrian ban – by deception.

Question Six: Please also provide a colour copy of all pages of your passport.

Eyad will do this. But please can you tell me why you require colour copies and why you did not ask for colour in the first place.

In conclusion I would repeat the comment I have made a dozen times in relation to this visit. Eyad is a good, serious athlete who wants to develop and expand his career. I was upset at the way a good person was treated a year ago. I do not want my country doing the same thing again to someone I respect and have coached for some time.

David Wright

Coach Jeddah Aquatics

Saudi Arabia  

PS – I have just been told that Eyad’s passport has been sent back to Jeddah. This is probably in order for him to provide colour copies of its pages. Given the distances involved (1700 kilometers), not to mention the cost, wouldn’t it have been easier for you to colour photocopy the pages and ask Eyad to send you money for the cost. I would have been happy to pay from New Zealand and indeed am happy to visit Immigration NZ offices in Auckland tomorrow to make the payment.

Your actions and questions smack of someone intent on making it difficult and possibly impossible for a good person to visit my country and my home. I know you have to assure yourself that bad people do not visit or overstay in NZ. I support that totally. However what you are doing is way over the top and reflects badly on the hospitality of the land I call home.

By any standards Eyad would be a welcome visitor anywhere. Your action of sending the passport  back have caused distress to a good person and for that you are not acting in the best interests of New Zealand.

David Wright

Head Coach

Jeddah Aquatics