This is NOT fiction. It happened to me. On Friday 25th October 2013 at about 6pm, our flight (Ethiopian Airline) landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. I was going to visit a friend & their church – for 12 days. I had a return ticket – my return trip was to be on Wednesday, 6th November 2013.
My journey from Nairobi Kenya had started the previous day (Thursday) at 6pm. By the time we touched down at KLIA, I was extremely tired + Jet lag, sleep, etc. All I wanted was to get to a place where I could take a shower & just rest.
When I got to the immigration desk, the officers decided to deny me entry into the country! Their word was final!
Reason given – They said I did NOT have enough cash to spend as a visitor in Malaysia. The law, they said, requires tourists to have USD 300 cash to be allowed into Malaysia for a day. 12 days would be – USD 3,600. The officers did NOT want to hear my explanation – that I was visiting someone.
There were several other travelers that were denied entry together with me that evening. Within minutes, we all had been rounded up & hounded into a dungeon somewhere within the airport complex. Our phones were seized & confiscated. We could NOT call or communicate. We found dozens of travelers in that dungeon who also had been denied entry. Some had been there, locked for days.
At KLIA, Persons Refused Entry (PREs) are no one’s guests. They await their flights locked up in a dirty place with 2 chambers – one for gents, one for ladies + some dirty toilets. There is NOTHING in that place, besides the concrete floor. All PREs sleep on the hard concrete floor.
It takes a few hours – to several days to get the PREs an unallocated seat in a flight. Meanwhile, no one is charged with the responsibility of feeding or caring for them. However, they remain guarded – 24/7.
NOW – there is this one “lucky” Malaysian woman. Very lucky indeed. She’s the only person allowed to sell bites & drinks at the PRE holding center – once per day. She also does forex – again, she’s the only one allowed to change money for PREs. There is also a “lucky” cleaner. Besides sweeping the floor, he sells phone services to PREs using his personal cell phone.Here below is the complete story.
MY ORDEAL IN MALAYSIA (MEMOIRS): THEN THERE WAS A “CHRISTIAN” OFFICER CALLED PATRICK.
Before I left home on the afternoon of Thursday 24th October 2013, my wife Grace, our son Eston and I had gathered in our sitting room for prayer. It is Grace who led us in prayer. She asked for journey mercies, favor, protection……etc, etc. It was about 1pm. My flight was leaving at 6pm and I needed to be at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi) at 4pm for to check in.
When Grace prays, it comes out like she has all the answers granted and guaranteed even before she begins to pray. She discusses issues with God like it is all a thanksgiving conversation. So certain with God she’ll be in her prayer, that it becomes hard to tell what her petitions are. She does it like a clerk signing delivery notes blindly before getting to confirm if what is in the pack matches what is on paper. So sure, so certain. That is Grace for you.
So, when things were falling apart all around me on the evening of the following day – Friday 25th October 2013 at KLIA – Malaysia, I still held in my heart that I would suddenly find favor with someone.
Actually, I found myself hoping that someone very senior at the airport would get to walk by the screening office, stop to ask what the commotion was all about – take matters over, overturn all the decisions that had been taken by these juniors, and start our cases all over again on a new slate.
My mind told me that I needed to begin looking out for anyone with a Christian name-badge among the senior officers around KLIA. When you are in trouble, many things come to your mind. Even crude thoughts. If you are black, you begin to look around for a black man to help you out. If you are a Christian, you begin to look for help in a Christian body.
I saw this man coming towards us whose uniform looked like it implied some serious seniority. And indeed, it turned out that he was a senior officer – very senior. He had a name-badge that read “Patrick.” A Christian name. This was around the time when they were preparing to take us to the holding center – the dungeon.
Before I could raise my voice to ask for his intervention, someone in our lot was already ahead of me. Another one was also not waiting to waste this moment. So, it was like everyone was asking for this man’s attention – all at the same time.
At first, he looked like he was keen to hear out each case. He seemed to listen patiently. He gave a chance for everyone to make their pleas. I thought this was going to be the turning point. I thought this was the man that carried my favor.
When it was my turn, I decided I needed to quickly draw out his “Christian” heart. I didn’t hesitate to tell him that I was a Pastor coming to visit a Church for only 12 days. I pleaded my case – swift and fast.
He waited for everyone to finish what they were saying. Calm and cool.
“Listen to me all of you,” he started. “You all have a choice; to obey and follow our officers’ instructions, or we get you all locked up in jail. Ok? You hear me? You all knew what you needed to do before you left your home countries. But you still decided to come here to test us and give us problems. We see people like you here daily. I want each of you – right now to form a line behind this officer. Follow him. If you do not want to join the queue, remain standing here. I will sort you out myself. But if you want peace, stop standing here, get into the queue right away!”
He was done. No one wanted to go to jail. Not after such a long flight. Again, not in a foreign country thousands of miles away from home.
In one moment, a whole bunch of air travelers who had just landed at KLIA Malaysia were now filing obediently like sheep in a queue, following a young officer. And he was going to get them locked up in a dungeon. Just like that. In Kenya, they would say of this “….It is likevindeo, it is like ndrama…”
Officer Patrick was not done with us yet. He followed us to the dungeon registry. He found us surrendering and registering our phones. Someone in the group still felt they needed to be heard out.
“Shut up!” Patrick yelled at him.
He dared the person speaking to open his mouth again. The guy was silenced. According to Officer Patrick, one does not argue even when they know that they are wasting time. Again, his officers needed to finish with this exercise, because there was more work to be done!
Officer Patrick turned and looked at me. Our eyes met. For whatever reason now, he was in a mood to shout.
“I heard you saying that you are a priest. Ha? You also want to argue, ha? I have been told you came here without money. Look at you – you look like you are a mature man. Why would you want to travel to other countries when you know very well that you are broke? Who else do you know at your age, will leave their home to go out pretending to be a tourist without carrying enough money….blah – blah – blah – blah?”
The tirade of harsh words was bubbling out of his mouth a little too violently now. He looked like he was getting incited by his own thoughts and descriptions of me. My imagination told me that he was now forming a new judgment and would most likely come up with a new arrangement to fix me. I waited to locate a pause point in his tirade……
“…Sir, look…..” I started “..please notice and understand that I am co-operating. You gave us an instruction on the other side. I followed it and I am following it here. That is the reason why I am standing here. I am willing to go by your rules…” I told him in a calculated cool tone. I meant to sway his heart. I knew he would be disarmed by my cool flatter. And it cooled him off. He walked away.
We registered our phones. There was an officer at the dungeon entrance to usher you in once you were done at the registry. No one among the officers had the time to brief us on what all this meant. They left that responsibility to those who had come here before us. Finally, we had been placed where they host all “Persons Refused Entry” at Kuala Lumpur International airport, Malaysia. My ordeal at the KLIA dungeon had officially commenced….