Monday, June 26, 2006

Just pay me 30,000 rupees...

One of my friends has just been accepted for immigration to Canada. After five years of applications, language tests, waiting and a nerve racking interview, he was invited to become a Canadian citizen just a few weeks ago. The final step to be cleared was the medical exam.

Before going to the Canadian medical labs he decided to get his blood tested in a private lab. One of his close acquaintances works as a clerk in the lab that does the immigration medicals so he went there for a pretest. Upon submitting his sample, he was told that he would be called by 8pm that same evening.
8pm passed. No call. 9pm, my friend tried to call the clerk but there was no answer. 10pm. No answer. 11pm, the clerk shut off his phone. That night my friend didn’t sleep, worried that the news was that he somehow had contracted some deadly disease.

At 7am he called the clerk again and was told that he’d have his results by mid morning. The clerk called back. “Nothing too serious. You just have some symptoms of Hepatitis C. You know, Canadian immigration won’t accept you unless you have perfect health, so if you just pay me 35,000 rupees (~$600) by tomorrow we can clear your record.”

I receive an SMS, “THIS IS THE WORST MOMENT OF MY LIFE.” I write back, “What’s wrong? What is it?” but I receive no answer. I knew he had submitted his test, and since there is no education about health issues here, I think that he may have some form of Hepatitis and not know about it.

My friend is freaking out. Not only does he not know much about different forms of Hepatitis, but he fears that after his five years of waiting he won’t be able to go to Canada after all. He is told by the clerk that many of the young men applying for immigration have Hepatitis B, and that recently one young wife whose husband is waiting for her in the US has tested positive for HIV.
My friend submits his blood sample to two more private labs for a triple check. He waits. He talks to the clerk and bargains the bribe price to 30,000 rupees. The clerk says he needs at least of half of it that very night. My friend calls his brother and makes a plan to arrange the money. Finally in the afternoon he gets the results. They both come back clear and he is declared to be in perfect medical condition.

Something is fishy here. Clerk #1 has a nice big new car which should not be possible on his salary. Turns out nobody will be turned away from entering Canada for symptoms of Hepatitis C anyway, and my friend puts the pieces together. Clerk #1 can afford his flashy new car because he tells people that they have ailments that in fact they do not have. Then he demands that they pay him ludicrous amounts at short notice in order to “clear” their records. Most people don’t question him because they are so afraid that their immigration will be refused on the basis of the final step, the medical. Besides that they are scared because there is no public knowledge of basic things like how HIV or Hepatitis are transmitted and what their symptoms are. Clerk #1 is taking advantage of this dearth of knowledge in a big way.

After my friend has completed his immigration paperwork he plans to report this problem to the Canadian High Commission. Somebody has to know what’s going on, and this man needs to be brought to justice. But here the system is based on corruption and there is no justice. You can’t trust anyone, as this clerk would even lie to a close acquaintance with about a dozen mutual friends between them. He may see justice if he is persistent enough. This situation reminds me of a parable that Jesus told:

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.
For some time he refused. But finally, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’
And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night. Will he keep putting them off? I tell you he will see that they get justice and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Luke 18:1-8

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