Seven of us, out of the group of twelve paying passengers, leave for the ten minutes’ drive to the border. Where our visa saga, already a subject of this diary before, continues. The Benin and Togo border officials share an office, to encourage efficiency, no doubt.
First we have to get out of Benin. A helpful police man takes our passports one by one, a starts writing the details, including those of our e-Visas, meticulously on a sheet of paper. That takes a while. Some of us have their e-Visas on their telephones, which need to be passed on carefully through a small hole, not made for telephones, to the other side of the glass wall. As some of us don’t speak French, and the police man no English, I occasionally help translating, for instance because he needs to know all our professions, too. Which bombards me to the focal point every step along the way. Because once the exit stamp has been put in the passports, the stack is handed to the next official, who starts to write the passport details once again, equally meticulously, this time in a large register. Including professions, which is where I come in again. And this is still the Benin side!
Instead of giving me the passports back, the official hands them to the Togolese policeman next to him, who… no, is not going to write the details down again. He takes the passports to the next office, directs me there too, and here a team of border officials is going to handle the visas. Once agreed on a 15 day single entry visa – at 25,000 West African Francs, equivalent to 38 Euros, a bargain compared to earlier visas -, we all have to fill in a form, with our passport details, address, telephone number etc., and we all get a stamp in our passports. Done? Nah, not yet. To each visa stamp has to be added the date – visa issuing date and entry date -, validity, unique serial number, and all of this with two different-colour pens, blue and red. Done? Nah… Now somebody else is putting together a package of value stamps, to the amount of 25,000 Francs, which are carefully glued under the visa stamp. This takes a while. But then…nah. Now the stack is handed to the boss, who sits at a desk further behind, who is going to check each passport and stamp against each form we have filled in. And then signs and put his own stamp on the page. Done! Done? No, now the stack is carried back to the first Togolese guy, who starts to write all the passport data, including visa numbers, and each of our professions, meticulously in a large register. Again.
And then it is really done. I get the stack of passports back, after one hour and fifty minutes – without any waiting time, he, they have been working non-stop on our case!
The question is, of course, who on earth is ever to read these forms and registers again.