August 13, 2002 - Associated Press: Visa Hassles Frustrate Peace Corps Plans

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 08 August 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: August 13, 2002 - Associated Press: Visa Hassles Frustrate Peace Corps Plans

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, August 13, 2002 - 10:44 am: Edit Post

Visa Hassles Frustrate Peace Corps Plans





Read and comment on this story from the Associated Press on the Peace Corps in Russia.

Commentary:


What is interesting about this story is the slightly different "spin" on the story from yesterday.

In yesterday's story in the Washington Post it was the Russian government that had "moved to kick out dozens of Peace Corps workers in a decision that could severely hinder the program's operations here and prevent new volunteers from coming."

In this article it is the US Peace Corps that "has canceled plans to send a new batch of volunteers to Russia this year, because the government is refusing, without explanation, to issue visas."

Is the difference in tone simply due to the way two different news organizations are presenting the same facts or does the change in presentation reflect a desire by the State Department to downplay the idea that there has been a change in the overall U.S.-Russian relationship?

Does this story have anything at all to do with the Peace Corps or is the Peace Corps being used to send a signal from the Russian government to the US government?

It has happened before in other countries. For example, beginning around 1977-78, the Brazilian military governmentís displeasure with the U.S. anti-nuclear proliferation treaty and criticism of Brazilís human rights policies contributed to Brazilís ending of Peace Corpsí presence. Brazilís foreign ministry simply stopped issuing visas to trainees until no volunteers were left.

We'll be following this story over the next few weeks to see how it develops. In the meantime, read the story at:

Visa Hassles Frustrate Peace Corps Plans*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.



Visa Hassles Frustrate Peace Corps Plans

By Jim Heintz

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW - The U.S. Peace Corps program has canceled plans to send a new batch of volunteers to Russia this year, because the government is refusing, without explanation, to issue visas, the program's acting director for the country said Monday.

Jeff Hay said he has received no explanation from Russian authorities. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry's operative-affairs division said the ministry would have no comment.

The Peace Corps, which has had volunteers in Russia since 1992, had planned to send 62 new volunteers for two-year stints this fall, but has now abandoned the plans, Hay said. The program opened in Russia a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In addition, 30 of the 64 volunteers who were halfway through their service periods have been refused visa extensions for another year, he said. Seventeen of the volunteers had been waiting in China for extensions, but have returned to the United States. Thirteen others, who were working in western Russia, will depart by Aug. 21, Hay said.

Peace Corps volunteers previously had problems with Russian visas, but those difficulties were attributed to bureaucratic snags.

This time, "I think it's bureaucratic, but I'm not sure it's inefficiency," Hay said.

He noted that, over the past year, a number of newspaper articles had criticized Peace Corps workers as unqualified for their duties - primarily teaching English - and called the criticism "outrageous."

The volunteers whose extensions were approved will stay in their posts.

The Peace Corps was founded by the U.S. government in 1961 to help poor and developing countries improve education, health and agriculture and to promote better relations between the United States and countries that were often suspicious of its intentions.



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Peace Corps - Overseas Programs; COS - Russia

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By Pete Brown on Wednesday, August 14, 2002 - 1:02 pm: Edit Post

I was in the first wave of English language teachers in western Russia (Russia III, 1995-97). At the time, the Peace Corps was only taking teachers with Masters degrees and significant teaching experience and placing them in Russian universities.

Shortly thereafter - and I believe against the advice of volunteers in the field - the PC began bringing in candidates with Bachelor degrees and little teaching experience to teach in secondary schools. In a culturally questionable move, we were sending in recent grads (21- and 22- years old), and billing them as "teacher trainers" or the like - sending them into a culture that is built upon the respect for and dignity of elders. I don't know why this decision was made, but my suspicion is that the PC was under pressure to keep the numbers up in Russia, and opening the opportunity to new graduates fit the bill. I do know in cases where volunteers were not capable of doing the work, they were removed and sent home.

I'd also add that visa hassles are nothing even remotely new to any volunteer who served in Russia. Every one of us has a story or two about delayed renewals, having to leave the country to get renewed, being brought in to the local OVIR for questioning, etc. In talking with other RPCVS from around the world, I've come to learn that the situation in Russia was somewhat unique not only because the volunteers face intense scrutiny and suspicion, but also because the very vast beauracracy that makes up Russia is subject to many and varied local interpretations. Additionally, the program has never really had a ringing or wide-reaching endorsement from the Russian (Federal) government, but has always had to sort of muck along and find its own paths through the beauracracy to keep itself alive.


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