Getting a Visa
I was 21 years old, young enough to take all the risks in the world, and I came to Spain. I went through a lot in Lebanon. In my home country, you never know when you’ll die. During the last 2,5 years I lived there, there was an explosion every Friday. Next to a bank, in front of a supermarket, or nearby a school. People you know die all the time and it’s normal. Fucked up stories. You never know if it’s your last moment. That’s why everybody in Lebanon lives each day like it is the last. That’s why people say that Beirut has the best parties. It doesn’t make any sense but it gives people the only real motivation to continue to live. Life is going on, either way, time is passing by, and people need to get on with their lives.
Back then, my sister (an LGBT person whose life was in danger in Lebanon) was living in Spain a few years after receiving asylum from Sweden. I wanted to visit her so I applied for a tourist visa but I got rejected. Every time you get a rejection, you have to wait six months before reapplying. I wanted to apply as an asylum seeker as well but because I’m a Christian, it’s not possible to do so within Lebanon, as Christian leaders have prohibited it for their community.
But one day, an opportunity came from God. After spending two years in Beirut as a college drop out for not being able to afford further studies, I went back to my hometown, Hammana, where I worked as a supervisor of street construction. All the wars and explosions made it a constant necessity. Anyway, at work, we received a phone call from a travel agency. The person on the phone said:
“We’re going to ask you a question. And if you know the answer, we’re going to invite you for a conference in Beirut. And if you go there, we’re going to offer you a trip to Europe.”
My colleague answered the question correctly and we earned two tickets. He didn’t have a girlfriend, so he asked if there was anyone who wanted to come with him. I said I would come. But I took it as a joke.
In the conference, the travel agency told us that they could help us with the papers for a trip to anywhere in Europe so long as we paid for the visa, tickets, and other expenses ourselves. With my colleague, we said OK and chose Spain since my sister was living there.
Two days until our scheduled flight, we still didn’t know if our visa application would finally get accepted. Then, the embassy called us. As I answered the phone, I knew that if I had a chance to leave Lebanon, I wasn’t going to come back again. I knew already that I was going to stay in Spain for more than 5 days. Luckily, the voice over the phone confirmed that my visa for 12 days was ready to pick up.
We flew from Beirut to Málaga and stayed there for two days. Then, I wished my colleague farewell and left for Barcelona to meet my sister. She took me to Cruz Roja in Poble Sec right away and the guys over there told me to get registered in ayuntamiento as soon as possible. Since I was applying for asylum and didn’t have any income, I was expecting a little bit of help from the Spanish authorities, but I got nothing. There was the notorious financial crisis—the crush after the economic boom. Everybody was unemployed, things looked terrible. The only great thing was that in Barcelona, the rent was so cheap. I was paying 700 EUR for what would now be at least 1.500 EUR per month.
I didn’t have a problem with anyone, not even with the police. In Spain, if you behave well, nobody will attack you. Nobody will say “Hey, you come from another country, we hate you.” For example, when I said to people in metro or on the streets that I was coming from Lebanon, they said I was welcomed in their country, and if I needed anything, they were there for me.
“I hired 7 lawyers and all were fake at the end”
But unlike the warmness of random strangers on the street, the paperwork has been super complicated. I hired seven lawyers neither of whom was a real lawyer at the end. You go to an office, they say “We’ll help you but only if you pay this amount.” And then they explain to you that the authorities could not assist you. Whereas in Cruz Roja, they’ll give you a lawyer but it’s for everyone. So he doesn’t have time. You never see him, you just see his assistant and receive guidelines.
There is not enough money in the world to match the value of feeling safe like the way I feel safe in Spain. I cannot say Spaniards fucked me. But bureaucracy creates a lot of stress. It depressed me. If you want to be comfortable, Spain is not a place for it. Here, you have to cope with things, just accept it and deal with it. You have to say “That’s the way it is and I’ll have to manage the situation.” But sometimes things are not manageable and you cannot do anything by yourself if the authorities don’t let you. For instance, in my case, long before they rejected my asylum application, I regularly went to a police station to ask about my papers. Every time I inquired about how things were going, the reply I got was “It’s in trámite, trámite, trámite.” No answer. You got trámite for 4.5 years, and then you get rejected. A slap in the face. “You got 15 days to leave the country.”
No Place for Weakness
On top of that, I was in a relationship with a Russian girl around that time, and not knowing what was going to happen to me tomorrow and if there was a way to fix my legal status in Spain ruined our relationship. I couldn’t fail her, have her be on my side, and let her live a dream, a fairy tale that everything is going to be OK but then say no, I have 15 days to leave the country, honey. What the fuck do you want me to do, honey?
I was furious. I was destroyed and I didn’t know what to do. Everything turned black. In Barcelona summer, I froze. There was a lot to do, but I couldn’t do anything. It took me five days to get myself together. My colleagues helped me a lot, and one of them passed me the contact information of a lawyer she knew. When I visited this professional as my last hope, I saw the first time a lawyer doing her job. She said, “First of all, you don’t speak Spanish, so they will never give you papers.” She was strict with me and had me learn both Spanish and Catalan. In the meantime, she changed our strategy and had me apply for a working visa as any other person who got accepted for a job.
At this point, although I am not enthusiastic about Spain anymore, I still don’t give up because I don’t have anything to fall back on. All there is left is myself. For what the fuck would I give up on myself? I’ll never do it. After all this, I feel like a machine. I lost all my emotions. You cannot be weak anymore, there is no place for weakness. Lebanon needs a hundred years to rebuild itself and I won’t live long enough to see that. Not sure if I’ll stay in Spain in the long run, either. Here, I like the people a lot because they’re friendly. The only sad thing is that they don’t love each other. For example, it’s sad to see that Catalans and Madrilenians or Andaluz don’t appreciate each other. I’m not into politics, but as a native of a country torn by civil war, it hurts me to see the hostility of Spaniards towards each other. It is frightening to see them fight.
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