Rest in Peace, Nirvana — A Refugee Hearing in Utopia

It was the year of the Lord 2019 when the hordes of illegal migrants flooded the shores of Nirvana. The threat to this huge and peaceful nation was overwhelming. Crowds of vigilantes marched on the streets all over the country demanding the newly elected president, who using tweeters, came to power by promising newly minted jokes daily.

Utopia by VG Venugopal

Senator Gloomingdale pointed out in Congress, that no daily jokes would solve this dire problem and demanded immediate resolution. The Speaker also pointed out that inaction could turn into violent rebellion by the of the gun touting citizens of this peaceful nation. Surely the time to show unity and action was now.

In order to calm the nation’s righteous anger and in order to reassure them president Joke-a-day came up with a brilliant solution: televised hearings of bogus refuges, otherwise known as illegal migrants. All other programs were to be cancelled nation-wide, and back to back episodes of real-life hearings were to be broadcast on all channels.

The pilot program was scheduled to be broadcast on the first day of April. It was introduced by first secretary Joe Joke-a-week, as a truly revolutionary program to show the nation the government is capable of handling this grave international threat.

The pilot program introduced the newly formed national board where members of the public had been handpicked for their ability to choose between a real and a bogus migrant.

The hearing took place in an office building on Back Street, in Hogtown, where after completing the mandatory three week long training sessions, the Board Members were eagerly waiting for the chances to show off their newly acquired knowledge of international law regarding illegal migrants.

Two names were randomly selected to conduct the very first televised hearing.

Mrs. Softy a well-known Social Worker, who had received a National Award for helping to settle a large number of refugees from various refugee camps from around the world and Mr. McNobb, a sixty-year-old man, a notorious drop-out, never finishing any schools, nor having a job for more than a day. The last one he remembered was a position of a cross guard at a local school, but he was let go for chasing the “little buggers” across the road with a baseball bat.

When asked what made him decide to look for a job after all this time, he explained that it was the combination of a threat of being taken off social assistance and an intriguing advertisement he found in one of the local rags. After reading it he came to the conclusion that he finally found his true calling.

Do you believe our country is overpopulated by foreigner migrants?

If the answer is yes, and you have never met a migrant pretending to be a refugee before, apply to be a Refugee Board Member.

No lawyers, refugee advocates, and liberals of any kind need to apply. Remuneration is based on your lack of experience in the field.”

You must be a card-carrying member of a political party.

Call for an application: 1-800-NIRVANA

He could safely say that he has never met a migrant, unless you call Joe Fu, the Chinese grocer from the village next to them moving here with his large family, but he never claimed to be running away from anything, unless it was a rabid dog. And he was neither a lawyer, nor an advocate for anything, except his daily beer, and he hoped that didn’t count. And as far as being a liberal? If he remembered correctly, his parents dragged him to the doctor at the age of six to get his mandatory shots that were supposed to get lifelong immunity against the dreaded disease.

The last hurdle was a current membership card of a political party. Since he signed up with every one knocking on his door, whose representative promising him free beer and food before any elections, he had more than enough to choose from.

So, Mr. McNobb was chosen to be a Member of this illustrious group to make decisions over the life of the throngs of destitute drifters, arriving to the borders of Nirvana without any identification or landed permit.

On the morning of the scheduled hearing Albert found the file on his desk about his first refugee claimant on his desk. He quickly glanced at it, to familiarised himself with the case. The claimant was a twenty-six years old male from Absurdistan. Albert frantically looked for the country profile, normally attached to the case file, to familiarise the Board Members with the country of origin the claimant ran away from. Albert was not about to admit his ignorance that he never heard about Absurdistan before his life. He slowly walked to the hearing room, carrying the files under his arms. Just then his partner arrived and hissing greetings at each other from a safe distance they proceeded to walk into the room and sit down on the chairs located behind a barrier on top of a raised platform.  Everybody was standing at attention until the panel graciously allowed them to sit, and the hearing officially begun when the chairing person, Mr. Albert D. McNobb turned on the recording machine and announced:

“This is a claim of Mr. Susan A. Gabor, who claims refugee status on the grounds of political opinion, and race.”

        Glancing up he noticed that the claimant’s head, one eye, mouth, both hands and feet were bandaged over, except for two fingers on his right hand. Standing beside him was a woman wearing a pair of dark glasses over her face and had a white cane in her right hand.

Taken back, Albert asked, “Who are you, madam?”

“I’m Ms. Mary Vack, acting as an interpreter of the day. My expertise is a special communicator in sign language,” and she proceeded to pass over her diploma and up-to-date licence to operate as such in a court setting.

Albert continued with the acknowledgement of the presence of Mr. A. Voltaire, a Barrister and Solicitor representing the claimant, and Ms.  Fraser acting as a Refugee Hearing Officer.

Ms. Fraser informed the panel that Mr. Susan A. Gabor, – the person claiming refugee status, – entered Nirvana, using false papers, impersonating a Napoleonic Army General, on August 26, 1989, at the Pearcing International Airport.

It was Mr. Voltaire’s job to ask the pertinent questions, like the full name of claimant. The young man, using his fingers tapped on the table, that was then vocally interpreted by Ms. Vack.

“Mr. Susan A. Gabor.”

“What is your first name, Sir?


“Isn’t that a female’s name?”

“It is common in my country to use girls’ name for males, especially since the sixteenth Pretender of Lewdon the Great came to the throne.”

“How did it come about?”

“He brought in a new law of birth registration for the purpose of conscription. So, in order to avoid serving the mandatory thirty years in the Bismal Army, all males are registered under a girl’s name.”

Albert turned to Ms. Fraser, the refugee hearing officer for clarification, and she informed the panel that indeed the country of Absurdistan currently is under Bismal occupation, where the new emperor, calling himself Great Lewdon the Sixteenth, has implemented new laws for administration. Birth registration began, houses were to be numbered, streets named, and males at the age of eighteen are conscripted into the Bismal-Absurdistan Army. Serving time is thirty years. Hence: In order to avoid conscription, most new-born males are registered with female names.

          Mr. Voltaire continued with the questions:

“What do you mean by all males? You mean to tell me no Absurdistan males are now registered under male names?”

“That’s correct, sir. Not since the new law came to pass.”

The tapping on the table became rather forceful at this point and Ms Vack, the interpreter also raised her voice to emphasize the point.

“Sir, this army is not set up to protect my country. My country is Absurdistan and I’m proud to be an Absurd. But this army is the Bismal Army, which is set up to protect the Bismal Empire, and forcing the Absurd conscripts to serve for thirty years.”

Ms. Vack the interpreter interrupted at this point and turned to Albert.

“Mr. McNobb, would you please direct the claimant to tap a little slower, as I can’t possibly translate as fast as he taps.”

Albert turned toward the claimant to instruct him,

“Mr. Susan A. Gabor, in order to make an educated and fair decision in your case, it’s imperative to get the correct information from you. So please slow down in order that the interpreter can adequately translate every word you utter.”

Mrs. Softy, Albert’s partner, puzzled, turned toward Albert whispering: “But he hasn’t said a word yet. I mean, it is a funny way of communicating. Aren’t we supposed to have an oral hearing?”

        Albert just realized, that until this very minute the voice that he recorded so attentively was only the interpreter’s, and not the claimant’s.  Instead, he used only his two un-bandaged fingers for communication by tapping Morse signals on the table.  Nodding in agreement, Albert voiced the concern:

“My colleague just pointed out, that this is an unusual hearing. Would counsel care to explain his client’s way of giving evidence?”

Mr. Voltaire rising from his chair took his time for a good sneeze before his comment,

“Mr. Chairperson, Honourable Board Member, under the current legislation the Immigration Act under 71.1(4) requires only that”

“A hearing into the claim shall be held in the presence of the claimant.”

71.1(5) directs us that:

                   “At the hearing into the claim, the Refugee Division

                   (a)      shall afford the claimant a reasonable opportunity to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses and make representations;

“I believe that under the circumstances all of these opportunities are provided. The claimant is able to give evidence in a manner that is understood, on which the Refugee Division can make an educated decision.”

Both Members were busy looking at the Act. When the appropriate clause was found, they noded in agreement.

        Mr. Voltaire continued his question. “Mr. Gabor, can you tell us what happened to you, after you were conscripted into the army?”

“Well, they sent me to a special unit, where I was given special training.”

“What kind of training?”

“I was supposed to gather information on the enemy.”

“Why were you chosen for this type of work?”

“They couldn’t use me for the regular army, because of my hand. Also, because of my education, they thought I would be more useful as a spy.”

“What happened to your hand?”

“Which one?” (He lifts both of them at the same time)

“The one that you mentioned earlier. The reason, why you couldn’t be used in the regular army. ”

“Oh, the left hand! It was an accident. Happened in the Academy.”

“Yes, I noticed that you attended the Shepherd Academy of Fine Arts. What were you learning there?”

“Sheep-management, accounting, and fine arts.”

“Where was the Academy located?”

“In the town of Shadarada-Bukfenc.”

“Tell us the circumstances of your forceful conscription.”

“About a year ago the army came around and gathered all  students on campus. They came well prepared.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“About twenty‑five soldiers, well dressed in uniform, with shiny guns came around followed by gypsy musicians, and a whole bunch of girls. The music began, then the wine bottles were making the rounds, then the dancing started . . . Anyway, by the time I came around the next day with a huge hangover, I was already conscripted, and on my way to Vipera, the capital of Bismal.”

“Were you ever told why you were chosen to become a spy?”

“Apparently I had been observed for quite some time on campus by undercover agents, and was deemed to have the aptitude for the job.”

“How long did the training last?”

“For a few weeks.”

“When were you first sent behind the enemy lines?”

        “About a six months ago.”

“What were you doing there exactly?”

“Went to major cities, where I tried to find places to stay and observe the movements of the Napoleonic army.”

“I noticed here, that you were captured. Why don’t you tell us the details?”

“Well, I was staying at this place in the city of New-Oda-Buda, working on a double agent, when the house was surrounded, and I was caught with my pants down, so to speak. I was dragged away to the army camp, where I was questioned and tortured. Would you like to see my injuries?” Mr. Gabor at this point tried to get up from the chair with great difficulty.

        Mr. McNobb held a handkerchief in front of his nose, as judging by the smell coming from the claimant’s direction, he didn’t really want to inspect the injuries too closely. Instead he requested a medical certificate that would corroborate the extent of the claimant’s injuries.

Mr. Voltaire eagerly brought the documents to the table and said, “May I enter the medical report of Dr. Dracula, the chief surgeon of the Absurdistan Army as an exhibit?” And passed a copy of the letter to the Refugee Hearing Officer as well.

Mr. McNobb officially accepted the medical report of Mr. Susan A. Gabor’s physical condition, signed by Dr. Dracula chief surgeon and files it as Exhibit C1, before he requested counsel to carry on.

Mr. Voltaire, looking down at his notes asked, “I see on the medical report, that your left hand is missing, your right hand, except two fingers is injured, and that the tip of your tongue is clipped. Are these all the result of the tortures inflicted on you by the Napoleonic Army?”

Mr. Gabor tapping his fingers on the desk, replies: “More or less,”

Mr. Voltaire further probing asks, “Could you have gone back to Absurdistan, after you escaped from your torturers?”

Mr. Gabor was tapping indignantly,“Definitely not. The clipping of the tongue means, that the enemy got important information out of me, and I would be crucified if I were returned to Absurdistan. That is the normal punishment for traitors there.”

        Mr. Voltaire, turning to the Albert, informed him that these were all his questions for the claimants.

Feeling a need for a cigar break, Albert ordered a break and left the hearing room in a hurry.  Lighting his cigar under the No Smoking sign, he pondered the case.

He was joined with his partner, Ms. Softy, who sighed with sympathy for the claimants.

“Poor kid! Imagine facing thirty years serving time! How awful!”

          Albert, blinking rapidly a few hundred times, put his little fingers in his ears, and twisting them around, wondered if he heard her correctly. Then checking the date on his watch, he exclaimed.

“It’s not April Fool’s Day, is it? Poor kid?  I personally don’t believe a word he is saying. Why, he practically has a mistress in every city he was ever stationed.  Have you noticed his answer to the question of number of children? Unknown. Is he an impostor or what?”

Ms Softy sniffed indignantly as she replied defiantly, “I guess it went with the job. I mean, by being a spy. And we are not here to judge him on his morality now, are we?”

Albert pretending not to hear her, pondered aloud, “I will be interested to hear the Hearing Officer’s questions. This spy business . . . Wouldn’t he fall under the exclusion clause? I wonder who was that idiot, who gave him credible basis at the first level hearing?”

Ms. Softy just to spite Albert, came up with another excuse, “It probably was a conceded one. Don’t forget they go by countries, and Bismal-Absurdistan is definitely a refugee producing country lately. With the Hun invasion and ethnic unrest . . .”

        Albert gave her an exasperated “Here we go again” look, but instead of arguing, he commented before they walked back to the hearing room.

“I just hope, Ms. Fraser, the Hearing Officer will be asking good, pointed questions.”

        Back in the hearing room Albert turned back the tape machine, and ordered the Refugee Hearing Officer, Ms. Fraser to start her questions. She turned toward the claimant and asked in a very charming, almost flirting way,

“Now Mr. Susan Gabor, could you tell the panel what exactly did you study at the Academy?”

“I told you already, sheep-management, accounting, and art.”

“OK, what is sheep-management?” –

“Well, you have a bunch of sheep, and after herding them to the pasture with the help of your Puli dogs, you keep an eye on them.”

“Why, do they run away?”


“Oh, some of them have the tendency to wonder away, but the Pulis bring them back.”

“What about accounting?”

“You have to count them once in a while, just to make sure that they were not lost or stolen or something.”

“Does it happen very often?”


Mr. Gabor looking confused, asked. “Does what happen very often?

“That they are stolen?”

“You mean the sheep?”

        Ms. Fraser getting edgy, knitted her eyebrows, “Of course I mean the sheep. Do they get stolen very often?”

“No, not too often. At least, not by me.”

“But in general, stealing sheep from one another, is that a common occurrence in Absurdistan?”

“Of course, it is. Why do you think it is necessary to teach accounting? If there were no stealing, nobody would count them sheep,”

“Did you ever steal any sheep from your neighbours?”

“Only, when it was absolutely necessary. But not every day,”

“According to Absurdistan Country profile, theft in Bismal-Absurdistan is punishable with the amputation of the left hand. Did you lose yours such a way?”

“Well, not exactly. I mean, I tried my best to fight them off . . .”

“Fight whom off?”

“The porkolabs, who else?”

“The what?”

Ms. Vack the Interpreter butted in offering an explanation:      “Mr. Chairperson, the claimant means the cops.”

        Ms. Fraser acknowledging, continued,

“Oh, I see. About your forceful conscription. You testified that about twenty‑five soldiers came around, with gypsies and girls. It seems to me that you all had a very good time, dancing and drinking, and that when you woke up the next morning with a hangover, you found yourself conscripted. What do you mean by that?”

“Just that, I don’t remember signing my name.”

“Now, about your special training. You testified that it lasted two weeks. Wasn’t it a rather short time to be trained for such an important mission?”

“But I also mentioned that based on the informants’ reports they knew that I would be capable of performing my duties.

“What were your duties exactly?”

“Going behind enemy lines I was to collect information about the Army.”

“And how did you go about collecting information? Where did you stay? Who did you work with?”

“I stayed at the most popular brothels in each city.”

“Brothers? You mean at the seminaries?”

“No, no, I mean brothels.”

Ms. Vack the interpreter, the first time since the beginning of the hearing appeared to be puzzled:

“Mr. Chairperson, I don’t know the meaning of that word, do you mind if I look it up in the dictionary?”

        Mr. Gabor at this minute verbally interrupted in perfect English:

“For heaven’s sake, don’t you know anything?  The cat-house at the red-light district. Where do you think Army officers visit most often, and who do you think they will tell inside information to? We’re talking about the Napoleonic Army…!”

        Albert, without missing a beat, blasted out a warning,

“Mr. Gabor, would you control yourself. No outburst like that will be tolerated. Now Ms. Fraser, please continue with your line of questioning. I would want to know, how was he discovered, and captured? ”

Mr. Gabor, continued verbally from that moment,

“Well, I was in the middle of digging up vital military information from Lola, the double agent, when several Napoleonic Army officers decided to pay her an unexpected visit.  I was overpowered, and taken to the headquarters. There, as I mentioned earlier, I was forcefully questioned, and tortured.  Lola helped me to escape, because she was expecting my child.

Ms. Fraser appeared not to notice the switch of “language” and asked her final question:

“What do you think would happen to you, if you were to send back?”

        Mr. Gabor breaking out in sweat, threw himself at the Members’ table, begging.

        “Please, don’t do that. The Absurdistans would kill me for all the sheep I stole! The Bismals will crucify me for giving out important military information and Lola would want me to marry her. I heard that Nirvana is a humanitarian country, and that you are nice to refugees.”

Albert raised his voice with annoyance,

“Mr. Gabor, please, control yourself,” then with anger, turning into anguish as the claimant fell on the floor, with a purple face. He stood above the man, urging him to get up.

“Mr. Gabor! Mr. Gabor . . .!!!!! –

Miss Fraser noted and stated the obvious:

“It seems, that Mr. Gabor suffered a heart attack.” Then added with a detached, professional tone, “Should we bother to call an ambulance or what?”

        Albert without hesitation blurted out:

“Not until I manage to clarify a few questions. After all, this could be just another ploy to rouse our sympathies! Really! What some people wouldn’t try to stay in Nirvana!”

Ms Softie decided to call the ambulance and after they took away the body, she grabbed Albert by the arm into Mrs. Wise, the local supervisor’s office. An elegant lady in her late fifties, the wife of a well-known liberal senator made Albert stand in front of a huge desk, disputing the necessity of the instant deportation of the claimant.

“Albert! You can’t be serious!  Given the present state of the claimant, only his body could be deported. And that is more costly than a funeral, paid by the state here, in Nirvana. We have to be practical!”

Albert threw up his hands in despair while exclaiming loudly and furiously:

“Now, this is just a typical reasoning of a pinco-liberal. Have you thought about what kind of message this would send to the international community?   Do we want everybody in the whole wide world to send their sick and destitute to Nirvana just so they could receive a free funeral here, or what? Might as well advertise, “Want to rest in peace? Come and claim refugee status in Nirvana!’”

 Judith Kopácsi Gelberger

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