Powerful passports, classist planet
February 6, 2024: In 1971, John Lennon released the song, Imagine. He famously sang: ‘Imagine there’s no countries; it isn’t hard to do.’ Well, Lennon’s Imagine is hard to imagine in reality. Because the reality is not a utopia of oneness. It is a dystopia of divisions and borders. Of classism and racism. Of Black and White people. Of the affluent and the have-nots. Of powerful passports and useless passports.
The human race has increasingly become obsessed with territorial rights. Passports, visas, borders, anti-immigration policies – modern civilisation is deeply divided and xenophobic. The world is fragmented. An Orwellian system is in place. A system that allows affluent countries to form a cartel and shut the door on people from poor and non-White countries. A system that demonises migration, even though it is migration that made civilisations grow.
This special report aims to open a can of worms. It looks at a subject we are taught not to question. It’s a taboo subject. It’s about the hidden agenda of having passports and borders. We will look at how passports, visas, and international borders are tools of the privileged class. Tools they need to split the world into rich and poor, Black and White, upper class and lower class.
You must have seen in the news recently that India’s latest ranking on the global passport index is No. 80; that France, Germany and four other countries have the most powerful passports in the world.
Henley’s powerful passports
The official list of most powerful to least powerful passports is compiled by the Henley Index, a London-based watchdog. The Henley Index says Indian passport holders can travel to 62 countries without needing any visa. Six countries jointly have the strongest passports – France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Spain. Their citizens can walk into 194 countries, visa-free.
If you look at the topic casually, you might wonder, what’s wrong in knowing which countries have important or powerful passports?
But the deeper question is, is it really a matter of pride to curate a list of powerful passports and powerless ones? How would it feel if someone told you on your face: ‘Look, you come from a poor and non-White country. Therefore, you have a weak passport. So, you don’t have the right to freely visit or settle in a rich or White country. If you still want to go there, we will thoroughly check your police record and bank balance, and let you know. But if a rich or White country’s passport holder wants to enter your country, you must not question them. They can walk in without a visa.’
Now that is the hypocrisy behind powerful and powerless passports. Is it not a case of institutionalised classism? Who decides you are a second-class citizen on this planet? That you have to limit your movements because you are not White or rich? That you should welcome citizens from rich countries without checking their credentials, just because they have powerful passports?
Think about it; think hard. The Western world releases a list that shows only a selective class of people can freely travel or move to other countries. The list makes it clear which class of people have no access to the affluent world.
India vs G7
Take India, for example. Indian passport holders feel proud because they can now enter 62 countries without a visa. But none of the G7 countries are on the free-entry list for Indians. Not a single one. Take the opposite example. A Bangladeshi migrant worker with no bank balance has to go through hell if they want to enter or move to India.
Who has put these one-sided rules in place? We never ask these basic questions because we are conditioned not to. Our education system is rigged. Our formal sources of knowledge are designed to give us a manufactured world view. Once our worldview is shaped in a certain way, we start appreciating abnormal systems as normal ones.
We are brainwashed into believing that passports are required to ensure international decorum. We are told visas are needed for national security. That borders need strict policing to stop the illegal movement of people and goods. All this sounds logical in theory. In practice, there is no equality and justice with the internationally accepted system. The rules are biased. They segregate prosperous and White sections from impoverished and non-White populations.
A close look at the latest Henley passport index should actually make you angry. Citizens of G7 countries, such as the US, Britain, Canada, and Japan, have visa-free access to 85% of nations in the world. But when it comes to welcoming outsiders, G7 governments allow visa-free access to only 39% of the countries. Basically, 10% of the world population who are citizens of G7 enjoy this special privilege. It’s a classist privilege put in place primarily at the behest of Anglo-American elites.
EU’s zonal marking
It’s the same story with the European Union’s 27 nations. EU citizens have visa-free access to 84% of the world. But EU countries allow visa-free access to only 47% of the world population. In fact, the EU works like a classist cartel. Citizens within the EU zone can move around freely, as if international borders don’t exist.
This exclusive (read: classist) and manufactured territory in mainland Europe is called ‘Schengen Area’. Only those non-Europeans who secure a Schengen visa are allowed relatively free movement within the EU’s exclusive zone.
The Gulf countries in West Asia have the same muscle power. The six oil kingdoms of the Gulf region are allowed to sell highly overpriced crude oil to dozens of poor countries. But it becomes a difficult task when people from those poor countries want to freely visit the Gulf nations. Visa-free access to the Gulf is given to only 41% of the world.
There is a lot of big talk about the BRICS countries. BRICS is an international grouping comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the UAE. Many people think it is an open-minded bunch challenging Western hegemony and Western injustices. But the BRICS countries allow visa-free access to only 42% of the world population.
Looking down on Africa
Now we come to the interesting part: the continent of Africa. The story is the opposite when it comes to Black Africans. Passport holders of Africa’s 55 nations are allowed visa-free access to only 28% of the world. But Africa allows almost 50% of the world to enter the continent without a visa.
Effectively, Africa is far more welcoming to outsiders than the Western countries and the Gulf oil kingdoms.
The double-standards are crystal clear, especially if you look at countries that are extremely snooty about immigration policy. America, Britain, Austria, and France have the most openly racist governments in the world today. Xenophobia is their unofficial policy.
Look at just the US itself. It strictly goes by a rigid list of only 41 countries from which it welcomes citizens without a visa. And it has ordered those 41 countries to allow US citizens to visit them visa-free. India is not on that US list of 41, by the way. As an Indian, you know quite well the pain you have to go through if you want to visit the US, let alone wanting to settle down there. In contrast, it’s far easier for US passport holders to enter in India, even though they have to go through the standard visa process.
America’s elite club
Which countries are on America’s welcome list? Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, and Britain, among others. Basically, countries that are either very rich, or allies of the US, or primarily White, or anti-immigrant, or warmongering in nature.
Now, what is unfair is that American passport holders can visit 188 countries without any visa. That’s the international rule. That’s justice and equality, American style. Don’t forget the naked hatred that the US government shows from time to time for neighbouring Mexico.
In Europe, Austria is officially the most anti-immigrant country. But according to the international rules, Austrians can freely visit 192 countries, no matter how much they hate non-White migrants and refugees. It’s the same case with the UK and France. Their governments are turning increasingly xenophobic and even communal. But British citizens have visa-free access to 191 nations. The access is 194 for French nationals.
At the bottom of the classist ladder of powerful passports, there is Afghanistan. Afghan citizens have visa-free access to only 28 countries. For Syrians, it is 29 countries, and it’s 31 countries for Iraqi people. You don’t need rocket science to figure out why the doors are shut on people from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.
Their citizens need genuine help from the rich world in terms of stability, safety, jobs, and a healthier life. Therefore, impose strict rules to restrict their movements. They should not leave their miserable homes. They are not welcome to the party. Take note that Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq are three countries that have been devastated by invasive troops from Western countries.
In fact, the rich world that happily ignores Afghan, Syrian, and Iraqi refugees can learn a few lessons from Lebanon’s government. In the last 10 years, 33 million refugees have sought shelter in various countries. Tiny Lebanon alone has hosted 6.8 million of them, who are mostly Syrians.
Follow the money
If you look closely, rich countries are possessive about their powerful passports and militarised borders not just because of racism and classism. There is another angle to it. It’s about economics; it’s all about cornering money. That’s another hidden agenda behind having artificial boundaries and xenophobia.
Study the money trail. You will find that an enormous amount of money is constantly flowing from the poor and non-White countries to the rich and White nations. Militarised borders are in place to stop people from the poor world from entering the prosperous world.
But there are no border controls when it comes to money flow; especially when money flows from the poor world to the rich world. Same geographies. Same countries. Same authorities. But the rules are different for people and for money.
Step back and take a look at the entire global economy. You will notice a pattern that economists talk about only in hush-hush tones. The pattern is this. A handful of rich countries, including G7 and a few others, are perpetually pumping money out of the rest of the world.
Due to this financial wealth transfer, the G7 has more than 1,100 dollar-billionaires today. The US alone has at least 735 billionaires. The G7 billionaires have a combined wealth of $6.5 trillion. Their combined wealth has shot up 45% in the last 10 years. During the same 10 years, the G7 countries saw rising anti-migration sentiment, more immigration laws, stricter border controls, and xenophobic politics.
Africa, South Asia, and South America are leaking out most of the money that’s going into G7 and some other rich countries, such as China, Russia, South Korea, and Singapore. This gigantic transfer of financial wealth from one world to another happens in the name of globalisation.
You will find more details about this money loot in this report.
The hidden agenda
Coming to the topic of passports and border controls, so basically, once you recognise the pattern of the transfer of money, you will realise one thing. That perhaps all these elaborate checks are in place for a collective agenda.
What’s that agenda? Perhaps to ensure that the economically looted populations don’t find their way to the affluent countries – where their money is landing up. Perhaps the agenda is to ensure that the money soaked up by the rich and powerful nations remains protected. Hence, we have border control, border patrol, passport verification, visa rejections, anti-immigration laws, anti-refugee movements, rising racism and communalism, return of White supremacy, and increasing political support for xenophobia.
Africa is an eye-opening case study. Ten years ago, the African Development Bank and the watchdog Global Financial Integrity found something shocking. They discovered that Africa was a net creditor to the world.
Aid to Africa was a myth fabricated by the Western media. Their investigators found that African countries collectively lost up to $1.4 trillion in illegal financial flows from 1980 to 2009. That amount was several times more than the money coming into Africa as charity. The worst-hit countries were Nigeria, Angola, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt.
The continent was leaking out money in the name of globalisation. Most of it was flowing into the economies of the richest 10-15 countries on other continents. Basically, Africa was fuelling the rich world’s prosperity.
Now, think about the passport power status of the African people. It’s the reverse. Borders and lopsided rules are in place to stop poor Africans from freely entering the rich nations. There are no borders when it comes to taking money out of Africa.
One-way money flow
It’s the same situation with India, other South Asian countries, some countries from South America and Southeast Asia. A few years ago, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics published shocking data. They found that the flow of money from rich countries to poor countries is nothing compared to the money flow in the other direction.
In 2012, poor countries received $1.3 trillion in charity, investment, and remittances. But that year, $3.3 trillion flowed out of poor countries. So, poor countries leaked $2 trillion to the rest of the world in just one year. Effectively, affluent nations are not developing poor countries. Poor countries are developing the affluent ones.
Bangladesh stands out as a classic example in this game of hypocrisy. It is where most of the Western world’s famous apparel brands get their products made using cheap labour. Yet, Bangladeshi labourers are scrutinised and humiliated as international migrants. From Western countries to the Gulf, they get the worst possible treatment.
There are borders to monitor Bangladeshi migrants. But there are no borders when it comes to Western corporations exploiting Bangladeshi garment workers.
Borders are actually not something new to human society. The strategist Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, had explored the idea of issuing passes to control the movement of people. He wrote about it in Arthashastra in the third century BCE.
In mediaeval Arabia, a basic form of passport was issued against a tax payment, called Bara’a. It was only recently that rich countries began to build sophisticated, physical, and militarised borders. The Great Wall of China, Iron Curtain, Berlin Wall, McMahon Line, Durand Line, Radcliffe Line, Line of Control, Demilitarised Zones (DMZ), Customs channel – they are just recent developments on the timeline of 12,000 years of civilisation.
Borders, a modern trend
The world has a total of about 2.57 lakh km of international borders. About 99% of the borders were created only in the last 500 years. And half of them came up in the last 200 years. Most of today’s international borders were drawn only after the First World War. That’s when the system of passports and visas was imposed worldwide. It quickly became a cult – all in the name of national security and international decorum.
The point is not to do away with international borders and tear up passports. Human society is an experiment. The system of passports and borders is also an experiment within the larger experiment. It is a system that can work perfectly and without discrimination if the rules are corrected.
The need of the hour is this. Economically targeted countries should bring the rich and powerful countries to the negotiating table. They need to be told that passports and borders should not be used as tools of exploitation and exclusivity. Free movement of people or restrictions on free movement should be uniform and universal. Most importantly, the rules should give us oneness, not imperialism. The existing system of passports, visas, and borders encourages imperialism, racism, and classism.
The question is not about who will take the bull by the horns. The question is, when will people first wake up to this Apartheid of passports and borders? The next steps will naturally follow once that is first addressed.
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