Ethiopians denied German Visas!

BREAKING NEWS!! Ethiopians denied visas for Olympiad!


Kebadu Belachew has lobbied for the past four months for funding to send an Ethiopian contingent to the Chess Olympiad in Dresden. Initially, Ethiopia had been barred due to arrears in FIDE dues. After negotiating with FIDE, it was agreed that they would receive accommodations and be allowed to participation. Yesterday, German government denied visas to some of the players. The reason? They do not have sufficient “financial or social ties.”

Dear Olaf Modrozynski and Jörn Verleger,

Some of our players were denied visa by the German Embassy in Addis Ababa. The reason provide by the Embassy is that the players do not have sufficient financial or social ties. As far as we know the Olympiad is for all coutries to be represented by the best players in the country. But, from the Embassies decision, it looks like only wealthy players can participate.

These players were selected from among many Chess players in Ethiopia by a regeress selection taurnament. The top players from this taurnament were selected to represent the country. We did not base the selection on the bases of who has the most money in their bank but rather who is best in the game.

Transportation cost is covered by Ethiopian Chess Federation and accomodation is covered by the Dresden organizers. Our palyers who participated in many Olympiads (Spain, Italy, Turkey Etcc..) and other international tauranaments in the past have always returned to Ethiopia.

Please contact the German Embassy in Addis Ababa (address included below) as soon as possible and help us obtain the visas to our players so that they arrive at the Olympiad on time.

Consular Sections Tel.: (+251)-11-1-23 51 62,
Fax: (+251)-11-1-23 51 59
In case of emergency: (+251)-911-20 40 20


Kebadu Belachew
Contact person, Ethiopian Chess Federation
+1 (703) 216-8459


  1. Daaim,

    They were asking for their personal finances. income, bank savings, assests, etc. I may understand these requirments for a individual visa requests for pleasure but it should not be applied on players representing their country for sport and other International events.

    I spoke with my colleagues in Addis and they informed me that the organizers and the Embassy were in contact over the phone for over 30 minutes this morning. The embassy has changed their requirement for perfonal financial proof to a letter of garantee from both the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry (or another high office) and the Dresden Organizers and that they would reconsider the visa request. The players have the letter prepared and signed by the minister of sports and they will be appearing at the Embassy tomorrow morning.

    I will update you with the result.


  2. Is is just one player or all players??Everyone knows there is a good percentage of refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia in Germany but surely thsis cannot be reason enough.The Emperor Haille Selassie I will judge the Germans for sure.

  3. Darren, thanks for your comment and concern.

    We had a total of 10 players. They said no right away to 7 players and for the other 3 (2 had traveled abroad before and 1 happens to be doing ok fianancially) they said they will communicate with the organizers and make a decision in a day or two. The entire women’s team is denied.

    We are still trying all we can to have all the players get the visa. 3 players alone can not make a team and we really would like our women team participate for the first time.


  4. This is very disappointing! I don’t recall hearing about these types of issues at the last 2 Olympiads, both of which were also held in western European countries. Is Germany different from Spain and Italy in its visa policies?

  5. RJT,

    I believe Nigeria had some visa problems in previous Olympiad tournaments, but Germany has an tight screening to avoid a flood of refugees. They may assume that many from African countries are impoverished and may try to melt into German society. At the 2004 FIDE Assembly in Spain, the visa issue was brought up by African nations. There was a fear of not getting visas then and they were justified.

  6. Abenet Bekele used to play for my team (Streatham and Brixton) in the London and Surrey Leaghues for a while. Is he still on the Ethiopian team?

    It would really be quite wrong for the African players to be denied entry to play in a recognised sporting event. It really is up to the host nation to accept the guarantees of the compting teams or not hold the event at all.

  7. Thanks Daaim for the background. I agree that this potential issue was raised early enough for FIDE and the organizers to have worked with both the African chess federations and the Dresden organizers to prevent visa problems.

  8. To be fair, some of these teams may have left the visa application to the last minute. If they applied 3 to 6 months ago, there would be time to get help from FIDE or the organizers if there was a problem.

    Of course, an Ethiopian has some chance of wanting to become an economic refugee in Germany, so some screening is essential.

    Its always the same teams that are late, visa problems or not …

  9. Mr. Steiner,

    I am not sure if you are speaking in an official capacity, but what you are stating is not accurate. First, it is an unfair requirement to be required to show personal income when you are attending an international event like the Olympiad, the World Cup or the Olympics. I understand that the visa is given on a case-by-case basis, but these are players representing their nations, not themselves. There are ways to find the intentions without sowing the seeds of suspicion.

    Secondly, if you have read the thread, there was an issue of whether they were going to be admitted. Initially they were told they would be admitted and then they were told they would not be admitted. As you know, you need an invitation letter to get a visa. It turns out that there was wrong information given to more than one federation. If you are told one thing and then someone else tells you something else, can you not see the confusion?

    The visa matter was brought up in the 2004 Olympiad General Assembly was that these matters would be facilitated. The mayor of Dresden made a number of promises concerning visa issues. This was a main point in supporting the Dresden bid. However, African nations have to jump through extra hoops to prove they are not looking to melt into Germany.

    Furthermore, I’m sure you are proud of your country and perhaps there have been refugee problems in the past, but I would not be so presumptuous to assume that Ethiopians would want to overstay their visa in Germany. These types of perceptions create an environment of distrust and destroys the entire spirit of the Olympiad. It will affect the way Africans and those in developing countries are treated in Germany.

    You may know that the Ethiopians played in Turin, Italy as well and they returned just fine. They have won medals in past Olympiad and returned in glory. If your attitude is any indication of Germans hosting the Olympiad, then it will prove to be an inhospitable environment.

  10. There are many precedents for sportsmen to defect during official events.

    A chess federation is unable to get a blanket approval in advance for all persons nominated by all federations to enter a country. Entry is controlled by the foreign ministry and follows normal procedures.

    You avoided the issue of timely application. Did the countries apply well in advance? How many really were refused entry after completing all documentation in reasonable time?

    I do not “assume that Ethiopians would want to overstay their visa in Germany”. I assume there is a greater chance than for an American, for example.

  11. It is only fear and distrust that drives these decisions. I was born and raised in the U.S. Some say there are better places to live than the U.S. That may be true; however, it depends what one is seeking. Ethiopians are seeking to play chess in Germany just like the Zimbabweans, the Brazilians and the Russians. All of these places may not be as desirable to live as Germany, but that’s not the point.

    For Olympics and the World Cup (as recently as 2006), these problems are minimized because of favoritism toward certain events. If under-21 Ghana had a football friendly in Germany, I doubt if the embassy would pick and choose which players could come to Germany because they don’t have resources. They’d approve the whole team. This “normal procedure” that you speak of is pure nonsense. Some of the Ethiopian chessplayers were issued visas while others were not because they could not prove they had “financial resources.” Just admit that the policy is discriminatory and we can move on.

    Why is the selection based on some elitist idea that only those with proof of “financial resources” can travel? This is a sporting competing and most teams are subsidized by their government or sponsor. Does every player (from these 154 nations) participating in Dresden have personal “financial resources”? Doubtful, but the embassies have made it the criteria.

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