Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Amster, Amster, Dam, Dam, Dam

So, when you enter Europa via CDG, from the US at least, and you remain in the international transit part of the airport, the passport check is...well, there isn't one.  At all.  I had thought this was fairly typical (except in the U.S., of course, where we try to maximize hassles for travellers).

I thought little of the fact that the "passport control" on my entry into Prague, from CDG, was  also desultory.  The guy was waving US passports through like it was rush hour and he was a traffic cop.  Didn't scan my passport, didn't even open it.

Today, I tried to leave.  Got a car from Bratislava to Wien, and then flew Wien to Amsterdam.  And tried to cross through passport control, leaving the Schengen area to go to a connecting flight to the non-Schengen area.  The Dutch passport guy, leaved through my passport, and announces, as if it were a movie, "Sir, you are in Europe illegally!

And suddenly there were four men with guns, all around me." The guns weren't drawn, but there were guns, in an airport.  They "suggested" that I take a walk with them.

It seems that I must have entered the "country" (the EU, it turned out, which is no country) illegally, because, according to the remarkably self-important Dutch police, "No country ever allows anyone without stamping their passports."  (This is not only mistaken, but absurd.  Nobody stamps passports...The comments here claim that it's never a problem.  Of course, they are wrong, but it was a problem for me!)

I was ushered into a room to talk to a man who did NOT have a gun, and (thank goodness) was endowed both with excellent English and wisdom.

I said that it was hardly my fault that France doesn't check passports, and that Czech Republic doesn't stamp them.  There is no way I could have gotten a stamp in Paris, which is where he claimed I should have been checked, because they didn't even operate a passport control station inside the international transit area.

The gentleman smiled ruefully, and said, "That's quite true.  And yet that is also what someone would say if they really were in the EU illegally, now, isn't it?  If we simply believed people about when they entered and exited, the whole process could be done on the honor system.  We have to try to enforce the law."
I had to admit this was actually true, from his perspective.  And of course he had no way of knowing if I was telling the truth, because there was no stamp.

He asked if I had my tickets still from the journey into the EU.  Fortunately, I did.  He looked at them, and said, "Now I doubt you just forged these, so you must be telling the truth." And did a carefully placed, handwritten "correction"entry stamp proving I had entered the EU.

And then added an equally careful exit stamp allowing me to leave.

I have to ask:  while it's true that could not have forged tickets RIGHT THEN, it would be easy to forge tickets before the fact.  He didn't check the bar code, didn't make a copy, didn't do anything to verify that the tickets were legit.

Does this happen often?  Thoughts?

13 comments:

Tim Worstall said...

I've been bouncing around Europe for a few years now (both inside and outside Schengen) and no one's bothered to stamp my passport even once.

I think the last time someone did was in the US 15 years ago....

Anonymous said...

The Dutch have never not stamped my passport when arriving from the US to Schiphol, which I've done for the last 12 years.

Eli said...

I entered the EU "illegally" in December 2012. Was flying to Greece via Germany and on a tight connection. A Lufthansa agent met me and my wife at the gate in Munich and escorted us to our next gate, skipping passport control. After a week in Athens, we flew back through Frankfurt. The passport control agent in Frankfurt noticed that we hadn't gotten stamps on our way in, and asked us a few questions about it, but was disinclined to make an international incident of it. After a couple minutes, we got our exit stamps and went home.

Anonymous said...

Bureaucrats always assume that other bureaucrats are as painstakingly bureaucratic as they are. I had a similar problem (minus the men with guns) at my local library, where they insist that everything in their collection has a certain sticker. And so, when I tried to return a book without that sticker, I was suspected of stealing the original and replacing it with an alternate copy.

Anonymous said...

I travel a lot to Western Europe (to the point I have expander inserts) and can honestly say I've never once had my passport not stamped. Maybe they just don't like the way I look? :)

Rogel said...

Lets assume that you did enter the EU illegally. The punishment will be to deport you, wouldn't it? But you are leaving anyway, so why bother with the question about your entry?

Mungowitz said...

Rogel, if you don't understand the difference, you have no hope for a future as a bureaucrat. The difference is clearly that...um...well ... I guess I have no future as a bureaucrat, either.

John Covil said...

Talk about the end of laissez faire...

Old Odd Jobs said...

How strange. I have travelled to Amsterdam many times (pleasure, not business) and have never received a stamp. Barely had my passport "checked". Then again, I am within the MAGICAL E.U ZONE OF TRUST, so who knows?

Presumably you explained your status as economics mage in the U.S, Mike? Duke cred gotta count for something, surely.

Gene Callahan said...

My passport has dozens of stamps: am I the only one who gets these?

Innisfree said...

China definitely stamps passports, but Hong Kong stopped stamping just last year.

Despite not stamping, Hong Kong definitely still meticulously examines it and collects arrival/departure cards.


haven't been to Europe in many years, but I have many frankfurt and czech stamps in my passport.

Brn said...

I've gotten stamps from the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and UK every time I've traveled to those. I don't have my passport with me, but it seems like I got a transit stamp in Frankfurt a few years ago too when I didn't even leave the airport, but that may just be my failing memory. I definitely got the full German TSA treatment, but then that happens pretty much everytime I fly to or from the Middle East.

Dennis Coates said...

I have been stamped every time in and out of Europe.