A family of four from Zimbabwe spent their holidays in the departure lounge of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, after being stranded there for nearly three months.
News about the family was brought to light after an employee at the airport, Kanaruj Artt Pornsopit, shared what happened to them on his Facebook account on Dec. 26. The man shared a photo he took with the family’s little girl named Mashia and a present that he gave her for Christmas.
“The little girl Mashia from Zimbabwe has been stuck at the airport with her older brother and family for almost three months now because of instability in their home country,” the employee wrote in the post in Thai as translated by Khaosod English. “They’re staying strong. Sometimes they’re playful like children are, but they’re not naughty or crybabies. I promised to bring her a Christmas present today.”
The Thailand Immigration Bureau stated that the family, which consists of four children under 11 and four adults, arrived in Bangkok in May as tourists, BBC reported. The family initially planned to leave the country for Barcelona, Spain via Kiev, Ukraine in October, but they were denied boarding, citing the lack of visas to enter Spain as the reason.
The family then made arrangements with Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) to fly them from Kiev to Dubai where they would bypass European immigration and on to a third country. However, a spokesperson from UIA stated that they canceled their tickets for the last leg of their journey.
They were all sent back from Dubai to Bangkok. Unfortunately, officials did not let them re-enter Thailand as they already overstayed their tourist visas for five months, and had to pay a hefty fine.
Thai immigration bureau spokesman, Pol Col Cherngron Rimphadee, confirmed that they had already contacted the United Nation’s refugee agency, UNHCR, which requested for the family to stay in the country for the meantime as it was “working on a process… to send them to a third country.” So, for now, they are being looked after by the airport staff.
The family’s situation has been compared to the film “The Terminal,” in which Tom Hanks plays an eastern European man stranded in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
However the family refused to go back to Zimbabwe for fear of “persecution” due to the unrest that’s reportedly been happening in the country since its leader of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, resigned last month at the age of 93.
Social media users from Zimbabwe, however, begged to differ. Some expressed their disbelief with the claims, saying that there is “no instability” in the country, and that it is calm.
I’m tweeting from Zimbabwe. There is no instability to speak of. Economic challenges – yes. The country is calm, & as we head for elections, politicians are campaigning in a peaceful atmosphere. Zimbabweans do their country a disservice when they lie about its circumstances
— Elijah Minana (@ElijahMinana) December 28, 2017
UNCHR is “currently exploring solutions,” but unfortunately, it could not provide any specific details or confirmation about the matter, BBC reported.