• Michael Haas

One night in deportation detention

Updated: Oct 5, 2019

I got used to the trouble-free entry into Vietnam. The online processing of the three-month visa had gone several times quickly and without any problem. So it would be like this again. I did not doubt it. We humans tend to find rules for life, everyday life and even love life. But when these rules are shaken, it hits us hard and we do not understand the world anymore. This is what happened to me at the end of August 2019 when I wanted to enter Da Nang. I routinely put my passport, completed forms, and picture on the desk behind which Vietnamese officials quickly and accurately did their job. Relaxed, I sat down on one of the waiting seats and thought of the things I had to do and wanted to do: the laundry was to wash, I had to look for work. I was looking forward to see Gunnar, with whom I communicated wordlessly and with words, was looking forward to the waves and my motorcycle, with which I was at the sea in no time. I smiled until things changed. "Michael Haas." I got up, grabbed my wallet with the 50 dollars and went to the counter. "Your passport is unacceptable. You can not enter. You have to fly back with the next plane where you came from and with the same airline. " "Please, what did you say?" I asked in disbelief. "The image page is only connected to your passport by the adhesive strip. This contradicts our regulations. See here. Show me where this page is connected to the rest of your passport. You can not do that. So I will not let you enter. " "But...". I searched for the right words. "You see, completely untypical for made in Germany the quality of German passports is bad. If you press to split the pages, what happens during copying over and over again, so that they lie flat on the device ... " "I'm sorry," the official said with a smile. "But I can not help you. There are rules that I have to follow. " "Can I get my luggage? I checked in two pieces of luggage in Bangkok. " "This will fly back to Bangkok with you on the same plane tomorrow morning," the official said. I tried a different way and said truthfully, "With the tape in my passport, I've been to and from Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos several times and never had a problem." "Can you prove that?" The official asked. But he did not really ask that. Because of course he knew that I could not prove it. Suddenly, a police officer approached me and ordered me to follow him. I followed him up a flight of stairs to an area of the airport where I could no longer see any people. "Where are we going?" "Do not ask, follow me!", The sheriff told me. A feeling warned me. Aren´t there situations in which cops get rude when they are alone with someone? "No, I will not do that. I want to know where we are going." He stared at me angrily, rummaged for his phone and started talking with someone. Minutes later another policeman appeared who spoke English well and told me they would take me to a place to spend the night. The overnight stay would not be free. I would have to pay 120 euros for it. "I'm not ready to pay for a forced overnight stay." "I can not decide that. But now we go there. " We reached a property surrounded by thick glass panes with several beds, armchairs and a sofa. The glass front door was lockable. I refused to enter the room. Now the official who did not let me enter Vietnam came and informed me that I did not have to pay for the overnight stay. But especially the locks were scary and I sat down on the floor in front of the room. There were other officials with different numbers of stars on their epaulets. The four-star officer could barely speak English, but made it clear to me with the help of the second policeman that I would make my situation worse by refusing to spend the night in the room. I would violate Vietnamese laws which had not been the case so far. "That means you could be refused on your next attempt to enter Vietnam, even if your passport was okay." One of the policemen made a motion, as if he wanted to carry something or someone and looked at the four-star supervisor encouragingly. Now it starts, I thought, imagining myself being carried into the room and voted, at the idea for passive resistance. I thought of Julian Assange, who had thus left Ecuador's embassy. The four-star cop was patient and told me there were two options. Either I would stay in the room or his men would circle around me and stay that way all night. Now I had sympathy with the policemen, who would not sleep because of me and went into my prison cell without other words. That night I only slept about an hour. The guard sitting close to me was making noisy telephone calls and was connected to his colleagues with a loud radio set. I flew back to Bangkok the next morning, had no problems with the entry there, but went straight to the German embassy and applied for a new passport. The question is: Will it be possible to enter Vietnam with it or did I infringe laws which may justify another deportation?

Deportation detention is not a pleasant experience.

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