What is with me and being detained at passport control this year? After a very scary experience in a Doha, something similar happened in Algiers on my way out of Houari Boumediene Airport.
Detained At Passport Control In Algiers Airport…Thanks To My Curious Passport?
First, let’s cut the suspense. I am fine. I was not arrested. I was not accused of having a fake passport, like in Doha. But I still was detained for over 10 minutes in an eerie replay of what happened earlier this year.
Time slows down when you are standing at a passport control counter. After picking up my ticket, I proceeded through the security checkpoint and to passport control. It was very quiet at this time of night since I had shown up a few hours early for my flight.
The immigration officer took my passport and looked at it. The cover. Every page. My Algerian visa.
That’s all well and good, but then he pulled out his mobile phone and opened some sort of app that had passport covers from around the world. He began scrolling through those.
About two minutes later, he called a colleague over. They both began scrolling through his phone looking (presumably?) for an example of a U.S. passport.
Here’s the odd thing. On many occasions, they passed the image of the U.S. passport (scrolled right by it). I was watching all of this from the other side of the plexiglass, still wondering what the heck was going on.
Not to be crude, but were these guys just idiots or did they need glasses? They pulled up an image of a Swedish passport, looked at it for several seconds, then shook their heads. Same thing with Australia. And Canada (all blue passports like the USA).
The only thing that made me feel more at ease was that this particular immigration agent had a box of pastries at his desk and kept munching on them. Colleagues kept coming over as well and munching on them.
My theory is as follows. I do not think Algeria receives many visitors from the USA. As such, a U.S. passport is a bit of a novelty. With nothing else to do and no line behind me, they probably just wanted to make sure it was real because they had no way of knowing otherwise.
Was I scared during these 10 minutes? Absolutely. Should I have spoken up? I don’t think so. In a country in which most only speak Arabic or French, no way was I going to make a potentially complicated matter even worse.
I know my bloated picture does not help, though this time they were not holding up the passport to my face with a skeptical look like the immigration officer in Doha.
I do not think it was my picture that may have “raised suspicions” this time, but I am seriously considering redoing my passports (I have two, one expires in 2024, the other in 2030, both with the same picture) with a fresh picture.
Anyway, the officer continued to look for an example of a U.S. passport on his passport app. Finally, after 10 minutes had passed, he gave up, literally shrugged, stamped my passport, and handed it back to me.
Another odd passport control encounter.
On to the lounge…