Algerian administration: Find a needle in a haystack
One bleak winter morning last year, with the sky black and beckoning heavy rainfall, nothing could have helped me leave my warm bed. I tried to leave it many times but the sleeping became a dear thing in such gloomy weather. I could not resist the sweetness of sleep on my warm pillow amid the bitter cold. However, I had no choice, and my resistance was useless, I had to get up and go to renew my passport, which was due to expire. It was compulsory, without doing so; I would be denied many opportunities in the future
I arrived to the department in charge of renewing passports holding the complete file in my hand, I gave it to the concerned employee and said “ delivered the summary of my birth certificate with the file of my First passport in 2011”. Then, he sent me to another office on the first floor in order to get this decomposed paper among hundreds of thousands of papers and accumulated archives. The papers were sprawled between numbers of iron shelves in an organizational chaos.
In my country Algeria, these crowded archives are still valid. Despite being the sixteenth year in the second millennium, with all the technological advances achieved, there is no sight of this in such department. The Algerians companies are still stuck in an older era, with only their pens and papers. I had no other choice than coming to this office to finish the work I came for.
I arrived and I found an old woman there for the same purpose and she with an employee going through an exploration process for it. I said in a small sentence, “I came for the same thing”. She took my passport without any word and started a new exploration process between hundreds of thousands of papers. All of this time wasted could be easily avoided by simply pressing some buttons on a computer, which is done by almost everyone and everywhere.
This abandoned office has become a safe haven for those spiders with long feet to weave their homes as they pleases. Black covers the place and the atmosphere is extremely dreary. The woman began the manual research with her colleague, returning back in time to last century, sifting through crowded files and yellow sheets in disarray. At this point, the colleague raised their white flag after a long search and said “my eyes pain, find it yourself”, and he left the office never to return.
This poor woman continued the search from one rack to another and from one closet to another in an atmosphere of nervousness and stuttering with herself hating this work imposed on her. In the meantime, another colleague entered to this office and said, “Oh, you still looking for her paper, it is too much for you” then, she looked at me and she wondered nervously “perhaps, you dropped the paper with the file of ID card not the first passport?” I replied with a big smile “No, madam, I renewed my ID card just the last year, and the paper you are looking for was with my file in 2011”. She did not reply to my smile, she just looked at me in a strange way and left. This manner in treating me would be quite different if I had a relative there.
After all this time, the poor employee still looking for my Birth certificate in an atmosphere filled with hatred, another employee entered this forsaken office after noticing the long time his colleague took with searching. He joined her and they searched together until finding the file that must have contained this damn Birth certificate. The woman went through my file papers, lowercase for the search underway in full swing among yellow sheets dating back to 2011.
It was a big disappointment that paper was not there. At that time, the assistant transferred me to another office. The case is big, and the paper is not extracted only once in a lifetime, and they were responsible to keep and preserve it. The second office was more organized and clean, the search was not hard for the employee in this office. She took my number and got my file and said, “We moved your birth certificate to this office last year”. I pulled the damn paper and went out of the department to make many copies of it. The law had changed this year, the department responsible of renewing the passport only took a copy of it, and we keep the original at home.
I returned to the department in order to complete the reason I came this morning, and I faced a new problem. The passport costs must be paid in the taxes department south of the city I lived in, my disappointment was bitter at the time. After all what I went through from this morning I had to now go to another department to fix this problem, otherwise, my file would not be accepted.
I arrived there very tired, and to my horror I saw; many people were waiting their turn to pay their taxes. I stood there waiting my turn, and the atmosphere was disgusting; employees treated people as if they were cattle waiting for water and food. Moreover, even these people did not respect the turn of each other, I asked an assistant there and he showed me where to go because what I came for was not the same.
For the third time, I returned to the passport department wishing that no other thing will be demanded, but of course, without counting the two month of processes to get my new passport. Finally, I completed what I came for that morning furious from the poor service and the recklessness of fellow citizens.
Rim Hayat Chaif, Algerian Journalist and Blogger, CB social media manager.