Deportation, something I never thought I would face until last Tuesday. While I do feel slightly bad-ass for being deported, it is also a huge pain in the ass. Joe and I were heading back to Turkey after a five day vacation in Bavaria, Germany which consisted of eating more pork product and German beer than a person can handle, when we were illegally denied entry back into Turkey. Here’s how it went down:
As we were flying back to Istanbul, we knew we might run into a little trouble at the border, considering we overstayed our visitors visa. From everything we know, the law states that Americans who make an appointment for thier residence permit prior to the end of their 3 month tourist visa are permitted to be in the country (considering how backed up the appointments are, we made ours in June and the first available appointment wasn’t until October). The rule is to carry around a color copy of the appointment confirmation in order to prove you are legally in the country. So we assumed we would hand the officers our passports and our color copies and be sent on our way. Unfortunately, the passport control officer sent us to the head of police who determines your fate, in or out.
He was a gigantic dick. Of course, his English was terrible so communication quickly broke down. Think of any of your preconceived notions about how a person in a country like Turkey might act when deporting you, and it’s probably fairly accurate. I felt like I was in Midnight Express.
The officer, yelling in broken English, said, “this is nothing, just paper,” and adding a phrase I never thought I would hear, “go back to where you came from.” We have been told in Turkey that you can solve anything with either a Turkish person or money, so I immediately got my employer on the phone, she was confident that she could persuade him, but after 15 minutes of the two exchanging what sounded like unpleasantries, he asked us if we would like to pay a fine to re-enter in 3 months or not pay a fine and be banned for 5 years. Fresh off of vaction, we didn’t have enough cash to pay the 600 lira fine, and asked for the nearest ATM. He pointed it out, and went over to drain our accounts, except the ATM was broken! When we explained this to the police officer he simply said, “not my problem.” Two gentlemen who were also in a predicament told us that the officers had escorted them to an ATM in a different part of the airport. We asked the officer if he could escort us to a different ATM and he explained to us, “we do not do that, it is illegal.” He would not budge on this stance, and our fate was determined. We are banned from Turkey for five years.
Lets back track and talk about the two gentlemen I mention who informed us about the police escort. Being deported sounded pretty bad ass until we met these two gentlemen. One man is a journalist and the other a photographer and they were deported from Syria to Turkey for entering Syria illegally, and were trying to get back into Turkey to do it all over again. They were really nice guys and I hope where ever they are, they are safe, considering the day after we met them Syria and Turkey began to exchange fire across borders.
They didn’t exactly send us “back to where we came from” they sent us back on the first flight to Munich. Our passports were taken from us for security measures and we were escorted to a terminal where we could hang out from 1:00 am to 5:00 am. We slept, we walked around, all in disbelief that we were being deported. We had to sign something that said we would be responsible to pay back Turkish airlines an undiscolsed “Euro” amount within 15 days. I wonder how many people actually pay that back? Then we were escorted to our flight and off to Munich.
When we landed in Munich, the very sweet German police were awaiting our arrival. They asked us what happened, responded as though this wasn’t the first time this has happend with people trying to re-enter Turkey, and welcomed us into Germany. Icing on the cake, the Istanbul airport forgot to forward our checked bag back with us to Munich, even though we asked them to make sure they did so about 7 times. Off to lost luggage we went, and a very lovely German women helped us, she also indulged us in horror stories she has heard about the Istanbul airport, making us feel all the more at ease.
From here our first stop was Starbucks to use the free wifi and begin to figure out what the hell to do! We found the cheapest route to Italy and decide to begin a two day journey that would take us to my family’s house in Italy. If it weren’t for this incredible family, we would have been, well, screwed. We began our train descent South from Munich, through Austria, and into Italy, finally making it to Pescara at 20:00 the following evening where we were greeted by my amazing family and taken to their beautiful home! It was hard to be upset about our deportation as we were traveling through these breath-taking European countries. For now, we are in Italy, spending time with some incredible people and figuring out our next move. We are no longer Istanbullies, for now we are nomads, until we find our next semi-permanent location.