Laotians welcoming visitors

I recently took a week’s holiday in Luang Prabang in Laos, and after a difficult overnight transit in another city, I had a touch of apprehension about having to go through Laotian immigration and customs.  And I am very grateful that I was completely wrong.

As the line of people passed through Laotian immigration of the uniformed guys found an umbrella that had been left behind.  “Anybody lost an umbrella?” he said.  When nobody claimed it he continued “Great – hey everybody, do you like my new umbrella!” all with a big cheesy grin.

The Laotians seem to be uniformly nice guys. Everybody in immigration was helpful and relaxed, the queues were short and even the visa stamp was artistic.  Although not as efficient as Australia, it felt welcoming.

The experience was so different to when I returned to Australia and encountered our sour faced and excessively macho “Boarder Force” staff.

There is something wrong about with our country. We have turned or immigration and customs into a “Force”,  we spends billion of dollars on imprisoning refugees; and have prominent, high technology surveillance of anyone who enters or leaves our country.

We used to have a reputation of being a fair, welcoming, honest and generous people.  Why have we allowed our government to pander to an insecure, but vocal minority, of our population by creating Boarder Force as a brand of nastiness.

It would be completely possible to have efficient and effective control of who transits our boarders without resorting to a crude manifestation of paranoia about the foreign and the different.   We would be better human beings if we could define our immigration and customs as “Border Welcome”, develop a sense of humour and learn something about kindness to strangers from the Buddhist Laotians.

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