There have been many kinds of oppressive governments in human history: fascist, communist, theocratic, monarchical, et al. And I’m not interested in arguing (here, at least) which type is worse than the others (for now, can we just agree that people being tortured don’t care whether it’s in the name of Jesus, Marx, Hitler, Allah or anyone else).
However, there’s one feature that SEEMS to be unique to communist regimes: refusal to let people leave. Francisco Franco may have been just as brutal as Fidel Castro, but Franco didn’t mind letting his domestic enemies flee from Spain. Castro, on the other hand, tries hard not to let anyone leave Cuba. And even the the likes of Augusto Pinochet never put up walls to keep his people in, as East Germany did. Heck, Pinochet probably would have been DELIGHTED to see his domestic enemies move elsewhere.
But since this is in the General Questions thread, I’m asking: am I wrong? Am I overlooking a counterexample? Are there non-communist states you can think of that have taken similarly great pains to keep its citizens from escaping? Or is this feature actually unique to communism?
You might be on to something. The communists of E Europe wanted to prove the superiority of their system, therefore banning emigration was an important part of their PR. And freedom - across the Iron Curtain/Berlin Wall - was tantalisingly close, not thousands of miles away. Even so, back in the 70s, Yugoslavia allowed people passports. Hungary by the early 80s was quite liberal.
The People’s Republic of China today is delighted to allow dissidents to leave, usually in the run-up to trade negotiations, human rights votes in the UN or some other opportune moment - but basically because they want to see the back of them. They don’t let them back (maybe the OP should mention that aspect of it).
Conversely, one North African country I visited years ago - definitely not communist but an ally of the West - made it very difficult for its citizens to get passports and permission to leave, apparently for fear that people would rush over to Europe and then cost the state money/cause problems when they were deported home. I suspect many other 3rd world countries have done something similar.
During the cold war, the West made a point of welcoming escapees from the Soviet Bloc with welcome arms, while refugees from equally nasty but anti-communist (ie pro-Western) regimes found it much harder to get a sympathetic reception, so their tyrants probably didn’t need to “keep” people trapped within their own boundaries - we did it for them. And they didn’t have a sacred ideology to promote. Nor (being poor 3rd world countries) did they have the developed bureaucratic systems to monitor people so well.
So, I’d guess you’re at least partly right - all else being equal, communist states tried harder to keep people in.
Turkmenistan. Probably the most repressive regime in the world. Emigration is very, very difficult, according to the Economist magazine 2003 world review. I dont think you can actually read it on the net though.
While it is true that many communist regimes in the past did not let people leave, it is not true today that Cubans are not allowed to leave by their government. The reasons Cubans cannot leave is because other countries will not let them in but if other countries let them in Cuba will let them out. The situation in Cuba today is not much different from other similar countries in the region where people cannot get out just because nobody will take them.
There are many Cubans who come to Spain by marrying Spanish people. They need to get married so that Spain will let them in, not so that Cuba will let them out. Others come on other types of visas.
An ongoing point of friction between the USA and Cuba is that the USA blames Cuba for not doing enough to stop illegal emmigration. Cuba always responds that the USA fosters it by allowing those who reach America to stay there. It is the USA who pressures Cuba to stop people from leaving.
The Cuban government has plenty of faults but this is not one of them.
Excerpted from the U.S. State Dept. human rights report on Turkmenistan (complete report online at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27870.htm) – it’s pretty hair-raising stuff, and these are just the excerpts relating to emigration controls and contact with non-Turkmen citizens and/or people outside Turkmenistan. There is lots more where this came from. Also, anecdotally I can tell you that a good friend of mine just returned from a Peace Corps stint in Turkmenistan, and they went to Hell and back trying to get an exit visa for her Turkmen fiancé. I don’t know the details, partly because he is still concerned about his family there and doesn’t want to talk too much about it:
“The MNB is responsible for ensuring that the Government remains in power and exercised wide discretion over issues such as exit visas and Internet access, and worked to limit personal freedoms. The MVD directed the criminal police, which worked closely with the MNB on matters of national security. The Minister of the MNB does not formally supervise other ministries; however, the MNB exercised control over personnel changes and enforced presidential decrees. Both the MNB and criminal police operated with impunity. The Government rarely investigated allegations of abuse and did not hold members of the security forces accountable for abuses. Corruption was a problem. …
A 2001 presidential decree prohibits foreigners or stateless persons from marrying citizens without meeting several requirements. The noncitizen must have been a resident of the country for a year, own a home, be at least 18 years of age, and must post a “divorce bond” of $50,000 with the Government. There were no reports of such marriages in the country under the law; however, there were reports that some individuals married abroad to bypass the law. The requirements were purportedly instituted to protect citizen spouses and children. …
On numerous occasions in the past, the Government warned its critics and foreign diplomats against speaking with visiting journalists or other foreigners wishing to discuss human rights problems. In January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned a foreign diplomat not to speak with opposition members living abroad or with their family members living in the country, characterizing them as “terrorists.” Several government employees lost their jobs after attending receptions at a foreign ambassador’s residence. The Ministry of Education had urged employees not to attend the receptions. …
The Constitution provides for freedom of association; however, the Government severely restricted this right in practice. A new law on public associations that took effect November 21 limits the ability of foreign donors to provide grants and assistance to civil society groups. Key provisions include: Requiring that all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) register, making operation of unregistered groups a criminal offense, and requiring that all foreign assistance be registered with the State Agency for Investment, Ministry of Justice, and “coordinated” through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
No political groups critical of government policy were able to meet the requirements for registration (see Section 3). The only registered political party was the Democratic Party, the former Turkmen Communist Party. It was extremely difficult for new NGOs to register with the Government. The Beekeepers’ Association was the only NGO able to register during the year; it was the group’s seventh application. NGOs that could not register successfully with the Government often were forced to join an already registered NGO as a subgroup to gain the legal benefits of registered NGOs.
In addition, some citizens with links to foreigners were subject to official intimidation. Officials questioned some representatives of NGOs and civil society activists after attending a reception in honor of International Human Rights Day at the residence of a foreign ambassador. On several separate occasions, security officials stopped vehicles and questioned citizens as to why they were traveling with foreign citizens.
**The Government severely restricted freedom of movement. In March, the Government reinstated the exit visa requirement and created a state service to control access to the country and regulate issuance of exit visas to citizens and monitor travel by foreigners within the country. The service is composed of representatives from security agencies and designed to limit foreigners’ access to the country and track their movements after entry. The exit visa requirement is ostensibly designed to prevent criminals, people with knowledge of state secrets, and those who must serve or have other obligations to the state from traveling. In practice, the reimposition of exit visas severely restricted all citizens’ rights to travel, work, and study abroad. …
The Government refused to issue exit visas to some students selected for study abroad and exchange programs. In August, the Government refused to issue exit visas to participants in an agricultural exchange program. There were numerous, credible reports that individuals who succeeded in obtaining exit visas paid bribes to do so. The Government impeded operations of foreign embassies and international organizations by selectively refusing exit visas to local staff. …**
And the Human Rights Watch report for Turkmenistan:
I find this extremely difficuklt to believe seeing how there are hundreds of thousands of Moroccans living in Europe (legally and illegally) who come and go all the time. The Spanish government has complained to the Moroccan government many times that they do not control illegal emmigration but rather look the other way because the more people leaving Morocco and working in Europe the more money they send home and the less pressure at home due to unemployment etc. So, in light of all this I can only believe those students did not know what they were talking about or were talking about the difficulty of getting visas from other countries to go there.
We used to have a Moroccan poster who was a student in the US but I forget his name. I bet he could answer this.
Ponster is mistaken if by “the state”, he means Morocco. Moroccans at large do not need any kind of exit visa. What they DO need is a visa issued by the country they want to go to. (with the exceptions of a dozen arab/muslim countries such as Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, etc… )
However, government employees (military, police, public teachers, etc.) do need an authorization to leave the country…technically. I say technically because my mother is a government employee (school inspector) but she has left the country on a few occasions without ‘authorization’ . She just ‘forgot’ to inform the border guards that she needed one
Those students were not talking about exit visas but regular visas issued by the country they intended to go to. And it’s really family + cash or loads of cash. Your parents need to show they can send you a certain amount of money every month to support you if you intend to go there as a student. Depending on the country, that amount can be anywhere between $500-$1000 a month. I know that my Spain required me to be able to receive at least 90,000 ptas a month (about $600 back then) and the U.S required me to be able to receive about $17,000 a year.
Those conditions are not set in stone but they are accurate for the vast majority of cases. My cousin is a pharmacist and their guild has special arrangements with several consulates to provide them with visas to a number of european countries without much of a hassle for example.
About the hundreds of thousands of Moroccans living in Europe. Back in post WW2, european countries needed workforce and recruited people in many of their african colonies. Many of them stayed and later brought their families.
Europe also received a steady influx of immigrants in the 60’s and 70’s . When the 80’s rolled in, visa requirements were tightened considerably which prompted both the switch to other countries (such as italy) and later on, full fledged stealthy immigration (IE: rafts). This continues today and in the last 10 years, the influx of subsaharian immigrants making their way through Morocco to get to europe increased considerably.
Spain complains about many things but their complaints should be taken with a grain of salt. Spanish agriculture depends to a certain extent on poorly paid seasonal workers (much like the situation here with mexicans) and they aren’t doing much to provide a legit alternative. (many of the rafts (pateras) that bring in illegal immigrants are run with the complicity of spaniards (not a big surprise). Furthermore, the very small distance between the 2 countries and the vast coastlines they both enjoy make it a daunting task to actually stop immigration. And yes, it is really not in Morocco’s best interest to put a stop to emigration. Most moroccans send money back or come back as tourists regularly and pump a significant amount of much needed currency into the local economy.
On a sidenote, hashich exports also benefit moroccan economy and the government is turning somewhat of a blind eye to those too. It’s said that the military actually helps to transport the stuff from the northern Rif region of Morocco to ports and whatnot.
A lot of the restrictions in Eastern Europe had to do with the brain drain orchestrated in the West to weaken those regimes.
Look at it from their perspective: We were mostly poor countries in pre WWII days. Now we have sent people to the university free of charge and at great cost so we can have doctors and engineers and now the West is offering them double what we can afford to pay. We have an “investment” and the West is trying to steal it to undermine our societies.
Hmm, there is indeed an american lottery that people from pretty much any country can enter. The winners get automatic resident status and are eligible for citizenship after 5 years or so. It has nothing to do with students as far as I know though.
This is a complicated question. Any country at war is apt to step up border controls and Germany was no different. For some time, it was quite easy to leave, especially if you were an enemy of the regime. Jews, Communists, artists all left by droves, some of whom were forced to surrender great amounts of property. After a while, of course, the Nazi’s started locking down the borders and it became much harder. Still, one of the big problems were just in getting entry visas elsewhere. Few countries wanted to take a large influx of Jews, if they were not known to have assets capable of supporting themselves. That’s why there were for years during and after WWII many Jews living in Shanghai - it was one of the few places that didn’t care about them entering.
Which really underscores the reality of today. It’s not so much a question of being allowed to emigrate, but finding a country you want to live in that will let you immigrate. It seems that, for the most part, refugees of persecution and citizens of former colonies have a better chance of being taken in by developed democratic countries. Without some sort of ace in the hole, however, ordinary people that want to move to another country just because they’re enamored of the culture or language are usually out of luck. I’m not saying it never happens, but I’m sure it happens less than the people involved would like it to.