New Zealand, where almost nothing ever happens, comes a tale
of bureaucracy run amok. If everyone in this sordid tale behaved
in the same way as the public servants in question, admission
to the country would be based on one's fashion sense.
Osman Hassan Abdullahi is a highly qualified Somali microbiologist
who had all his papers in order for emigrating from Yemen
to New Zealand to take up a new post.
mistake, it appears, was to show up in a sky-blue suit and
yellow socks, which immigration officials decided that no
genuine scientist would be caught dead wearing. (Have they
been inside an Internet company lately?)
dates back to 1995 but only recently came to light after the
New Zealand Herald won a legal challenge to review the documents.
had sued the Immigration Minister and the Attorney General
and won a confidential out-of-court settlement along with
an official apology.
illegal to wear a blue suit with yellow socks?" he asked rhetorically
after being contacted by the newspaper. The affair began on
Aug 16, 1995, when Mr Abdullahi arrived at Changi Airport
in Singapore, bound from Yemen to Auckland.
passport contained a New Zealand residence visa issued in
New Delhi, as Mr Abdullahi had met all the criteria under
the immigration service's points system.
several unsuccessful attempts to collect his boarding pass
from Air New Zealand staff, he was told he could not board
wanted to check his visa with the New Zealand High Commission
in Singapore, which was closed.
horror, when his passport was returned it had been defaced
by a handwritten entry stating: "The bearer of this passport
cannot use this passport for entry or travel to Australia
under any circumstances.
for Australia." The note had been entered by an Australian
functionary attached to Qantas, to whom queries were referred
when the New Zealand High Commission office was closed.
sent a memo sent to the High Commission saying: "On talking
for some time with the passenger it was observed that his
whole demeanour did not fit somebody with tertiary qualifications.
sky-blue, was ill-fitting, with [the] brand label still stitched
to the outside of the suit sleeve, and he had on yellow socks.
day when he was re-interviewed he had removed his tie and
appeared to be unable to do it back up." The New Zealand High
Commissioner, perhaps in a spirit of Antipodean sartorial
solidarity, bought the story.
Mr Abdullahi a letter stating that his passport and visa were
no longer valid, and the residence visa would be cancelled.
It got worse - the scientist was placed in custody for two
days and told he would be deported to Yemen.
believed he would then be sent back to Somalia, which was
torn apart by civil war.
was a death sentence for me. I could have easily been killed."
He returned to Yemen and managed to reapply for New Zealand
residency. Sixteen months later, he arrived in New Zealand
with his wife and two children.
is a beautiful country with beautiful people," he said. "But
those people who are representing New Zealand outside should
be clever, broad-minded, well-educated, who do not generalise