A couple of blog entries ago, I wrote about our trip to Turkey. I didn’t go much into detail about it, just the basic details. Now that the said trip is over, I finally have the time to write about it.
Warning: It was traumatic.
We booked our plane tickets last July but we waited until October and November before we reserved hotels. Everything was in order by December. We booked our hotel in Istanbul, purchased plane tickets for our trips to Izmir and Cappadocia, reserved a pocket wifi and applied for an e-Visa.
Months have passed and February finally came. We were all set— everything was in order. A day before our departure, I visited the Turkish Embassy site to double check the requirements:
~ A valid OECD visa (Check. Our Japan visa expires in 2019.)
~ Pocket money of USD50 per day for the whole duration of the trip (Check. We even brought Euros which has a higher value if bought against Philippine Pesos.)
~ Proof of hotel reservation/s (Check. Each of us has a print-out of all our hotel bookings.)
We departed for Singapore on 06 February 2016 at 7:00 PM and we arrived on the same day at around 10:00 PM (I forgot the exact time.). We stayed inside Changi Airport for about three hours before our scheduled flight to Istanbul on 07 February 2016. We left Singapore at around 1:00 AM and spent approximately 11 grueling hours in the plane (Singapore Airlines).
We arrived in Istanbul Ataturk Airport at around 7:25 AM. We were ecstatic for a number of reasons:
1) Spending 11 hours inside an aircraft is no joke. We were excited to walk around and stretch our legs. More importantly, we wanted to finally take a shower.
2) It was our first time in Istanbul. It’s always exciting to explore a new territory. It’s one of the reasons why I love traveling.
3) We exerted so much effort and spent valuable resources in making this trip happen. It was so close I can almost taste it— Bosphorus! Galata! Ephesus! Cappadocia! Gaaaah…
Then the unfortunate incident happened.
We were already in line for immigration— my boyfriend, our housemate and I. As we made our way to the immigration officer, we were chatting away…oblivious to what will befall us.
After I handed my passport to the Immigration Officer, he asked me to proceed to a kiosk where my documents will be checked. He also asked my friends to go there. We thought it was standard procedure but it wasn’t.
The officer in the kiosk asked us to sit down after taking our passports. He didn’t even bother to tell us what was happening. It was only when my friend approached the officer again that we knew there was something wrong. He was asked if he has a US, UK or Schengen visa. He had a valid US visa so he was instructed to buy a new visa.
We approached the officer again to ask what was wrong. He said that our visa wasn’t valid. They changed their rules and they no longer accept visas from OECD countries and Canada. We were so surprised that all I could say was, “ARE YOU SERIOUS???”
My boyfriend asked the officer when this new rule started and the reply was: February 6. Just one day.
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
I started to argue our case. It went something like:
Mr Officer, we applied for a visa last December. We left our country yesterday and there wasn’t even an e-mail or an advisory in the website that there was a sudden change of rule. We were already in Singapore when this supposed rule change happened.
I took up International Relations back in college where I studied International Law for one term. It was so frustrating because I couldn’t think of any way. I should know what to do, right? There must be a loophole. There must be a way.
We could have called the Philippine Embassy but there was no way to contact them. The language barrier was also a major setback. We were afraid to argue our case further because we have no idea how they would react.
I understand that the immigration has every right to refuse entry to their territory. I just feel that they could have been a little bit more understanding considering the circumstances. In my world (Risk/Compliance), what they did was decide based on a rule-based (tick-box) approach. It’s only either black or white, yes or no. No deviations.
It irks me that they did not even consider those individuals who already applied for visa prior to the implementation of the new rule. Or, I don’t know, an e-mail advice would have been nice. A single note would have saved us from wasting around 28 hours of travel time.
What’s worse is that we were treated like criminals. We had a police escort the whole time. To be fair, they were nicer to us as compared to how they treat other deportees most likely because they have a background of what transpired. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that we were detained. Our passports were taken from us. We were only able to get hold of our travel documents until we were back in Manila. We were not allowed to leave the office until our boarding time. We asked if we could just go to Singapore instead but per regulation, we had to go back to Manila where we first departed. I wasn’t even able to contact my family the whole time as I didn’t have access to wifi and my roaming didn’t work.
I know, I know, these are rules that should be followed. But still. As a human, I still feel that we were not treated fairly. Just imagine the financial, psychological and emotional damage this fiasco has caused us.
Still can’t get over it, sorry.