By Uzoma Ahamefule
Juliana Salzer is an Austrian lady living very comfortably and coming from a very comfortable home. But her sad experience and humiliation in the hands of the Norwegian customs authorities at the airport has made her to ask many questions why people should be treated not based on the content of their character but on race and religion.
She had visited her friend J. E. in Nigeria in December 2011 and in return had invited her to Austria for a holiday and had also planned to travel to Oslo in April 2012 with her as a city she said that she had travelled to many times and had loved so much. But this time at the airport in Oslo she got what she had never bargained because she had a Nigerian friend as a co-traveller and as such was suspected for drugs and money laundry, detained in the name of interrogation for hours and told by a Norwegian customs officer that Nigerians were bad people and liars because of their country.
According to Juliana Salzer, when they were called at the airport for control she thought that it would be a normal routine check that might take 5 or a maximum of 10 minutes to end since they were as pure as snow, but alas, they ended up spending close to 3 hours, humiliated and their egos punctured.
She said that during the interrogation she and her friend had been separated in 2 separate booths at the back of the customs office at the airport where they were told to eat and drink so that they could empty their bowels. The height of their humiliation according to her was when the interrogating officers wore white plastic hand gloves and ordered them to undress completely and bend down. Not done with that they were forced to go to the toilet and to answer the call of nature with the customs officers right inside the toilet collecting and crosschecking the waste papers. At a point it got to a provocation level when one of the customs officers started asking her again “What are your parents doing? What are you doing for a living? Are you married? How did you get to know your friend? At a point it turned into aggression as the customs officer stood up and pointed her finger at her face as if she had committed a crime saying “[…] I am talking about washing money.” Juliana remained calm and said that she had told her that she had enough money and her parents had enough also, so, she did not do such things. The customs officer again threatened her this time as she said to her “Now listen, wherever you go and whatever you do we will see it. Whenever you take or put money in your account we will see it for the rest of your life. You had a Nigerian boyfriend before and now you are in Oslo with a Nigerian, you should know that Nigerians are very bad, they are lying all the time, all the time about everything and this is because of their country.”
Juliana asked rhetorically that if she could be treated like this just simply because she was with a Nigerian, what would happen if she was a Nigerian, and said that Nigeria had got a very, very bad image. She believed that the way she had been controlled as European citizen without any criminal record had been a shame. She also said that she did not care if people were controlled but to treat people the way they had done to her like a common criminal without doing anything wrong than being a friend of a Nigerian was ridiculous. Therefore, she said that Nigerians were targets and advised any Nigerian planning to travel out to be prepared to show a lot of confidence and be well informed about his/her rights and also advised Nigerian leaders to do something on the image of their country.
Uzoma Ahamefule, a concerned patriotic citizen writes from Vienna, Austria