Visa for Life
Pakistani soldier (R, front) and an Afghan Taliban (L, front) stand guard on their respective sides at the Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan (Photo: Xinhua)
Visa for Life refers to the story of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania at the time of WWII, who saved thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing annihilation by the Nazis. He rescued them by issuing them transit visas through Japan. Sugihara’s story was so relatable to me three days ago, when my friend U and her family succeeded in crossing the border at Torkham into Pakistan, with the assistance of the Australian High Commission in Islamabad.
"Dear friends, I have passed the first two gates and now we are waiting for our COVID-19 results."
"...and I think there is one more gate."
"And our tests were negative."
"...and now we are going to Islamabad."
We (her support team in Aus) told her we were fearful for her safety not only in crossing the border, but for her journey to it, as we knew it was dangerous passing Taliban checkpoints. U told us it went surprisingly smoothly. Because she was almost totally covered in a black burqa, the guards thought the family itself was Taliban.
U was issued a Humanitarian Visa by the Australian Government in August. We thought that had been the main challenge, and that she'd be evacuated to Australia through Kabul airport before the military exit. However, that was not the case, despite her attempts to enter the airport several times. Now, the only way out seems to be through the Pakistan border. U is waiting, with others, for a flight out of Islamabad to Australia.