The Official picked up his pen, adjusted his spectacles, and looked over the man standing before him. The man sat uncomfortably; all too painfully aware of the poor first impression his ragged clothing and unshaven appearance gave.
“Padraig Mac Gabhainn”
“Paddy, eh? What was that surname again?”
“I see. And how do you spell that then?”
The Official removed his spectacles and sighed as he rubbed his tired eyes. Why couldn’t these people just have straightforward names like Smith or Johnson?
“Look, I cannot write all that, I will just put down Magoon, it sounds pretty much the same anyway. Is that all right?”
Padraig shrugged. It was not a good idea to argue with the representative of officialdom when he held your life in his hands.
“Now, you are seeking asylum, is that correct?”
“Yes Sir, I’m looking for a safe place to live.”
“Tell me why your own home is so dangerous then.”
“Well Sir, the crops have failed, so there’s nothing to eat. People are weak from hunger, and cold, so there are diseases spreading everywhere, epidemics of typhus and cholera…”
“Okay, hold on a second now. Tell me, are you discriminated against in any way, because of your religion or race perhaps?”
“Well no Sir, not really. In my father’s time there as some of that all right, We were forbidden to enter the parliament you see, and in my grandfather’s time we couldn’t vote or get government jobs or buy land, but all those old penal laws are long gone now Sir.”
“So you are not victimised by the law then? What about this crop failure then? Is the government deliberately starving your people perhaps?”
“Again not really, Sir. Though I have heard there are some who would not mind if our people died away, they are trying to help alleviate the suffering Sir. They’ve set up workhouses for the sick, and work schemes for the able-bodied so they can earn money to buy food. In fairness they’re not just letting us die, though there are so many to feed its difficult, and the roads are so poor it takes time to get the provisions to the most desperate. There are those who say they could do more, and would do more if we were of their tribe and spoke their tongue, but sure my neighbours of the other tribe are starving too, so I can’t honestly say they’re deliberately starving anyone.”
The Official finished the notes he was making, carefully placed his pen at the side of the writing table, removed his spectacles again, and crossed his hands.
“So, let me get this straight. You have as much right to vote as the next man. There is no law barring you from entering the professions, or owning land, or any other impediment, no more than applies to the next man. There is a crop failure, but the government is trying to feed the people, and providing work opportunities so the able-bodied can earn money for food through a workfare programme. Is that a fair summary?”
“Well I’m sorry Mr Magoon, but its clear to me you are an economic migrant. America has no need for people like you. How could we ever hope to build our nation if we let layabouts like you into the country?”
Mac Gabhainn’s shoulders slumped, and dejected he picked up his hat and walked back to the processing room, from where he would return to his home. The next applicant entered and stood before the official, who did not look up from his forms.