Everything posted here is stricktly the opinion of the poster and shall not be taken to be the official position of UNMIS, UNMISS, UN, the Norwegian Armed Forces or any other organisation whatsoever.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Going home on leave

The following was written about 35,000' above the ground, somewhere over the southern Europe:

There is something almost sinful about a business class seat; the way your foot room is measured in feet instead of inches, the infinite adjustable seat with built in massager, the little Christmas stocking with "useful things" like toothpaste, a little toothbrush and a fresh pair of socks... in a way it's nice to realize that the only difference between the bathroom in the front and the back is the fake flowers - it's just as cramped and have the same smell of plastic and disinfectant.

Yes, as the awake reader surely understands, I have been upgraded on my fight. Not that I feel particularly singled out, the aircraft in question had more than half the cabin space devoted to business class and was only about three quarters full. Still a very pleasant surprise and a nice start on my first leave.

Behind the curtain was the second surprise of my flight - twenty odd immigrants*, more or less well dressed for Norwegian climate, looking terrified and excited at the same time, each clutching a plastic bag from IMO (International Organization of Immigration) with their name and future address in Norway A quick talk to one of them revealed why they held the bags like if their life depended on it - in a strangely real way it does; it contains their official paperwork from various refugee organizations, the paperwork from UNHCR, their official travel documents from Norway and so on. Yes, behind the curtain separating business class from the cattle class was twenty odd new countrymen of mine - who had been refugees on their own continent for years, who had fought the odds and the bureaucracy of their own countries, the UN and Norwegian UDi, gotten their legal papers sorted out and finally were able to head to their new life. Judging by the size of the smiles of the couple I spent a few minutes talking with, it actually meant something that a "official" - ie me traveling in uniform - Norwegian was on the flight, wishing them the very best for their new future. Seeing them sitting there, by themselves, in couples and two families with children, with no room for their feet, six to a row, and most too excited to sleep and too worn out from their emotions to stay awake... well, there is something almost sinful about the seats in business class.

*) Immigrants, unlike asylum seekers, go through the entire process of applying with the UNHCR - often via a third party in the form of a NGO - for one of the few open slots open for 'refugee immigration' most civilized countries have. Often refereed to as "quota refugees" because of how the UN fills each country's 'quota' each year, these people mustn't be confused with asylum seekers. The later turns up in Norway - or any other country - asking asylum and the right to stay. Immigrants like the ones I shared my fight with are traveling to their destination with the knowledge that they can stay there, having been weighted as it were and found to be genuine refugees in need of a safe haven to rebuild shattered lifes.

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