BANGKOK – A family from Zimbabwe has reportedly been stranded in the departure lounge of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand for three months in what appears to have been a botched asylum attempt.
According to Khaosod, the family of eight consists two men, two women and four children. The children are three boys and a girl, aged between 2 and 11.
They have reportedly been living off the generosity of airport staff and Ukraine International Airlines, which was previously forced to return the family to Thailand, for food and other necessities while the departure lounge sofas have become their beds.
Their plight came to light this Tuesday after one of the airport’s employees posted a captioned photo handing over a Christmas gift to one of the two children, Mashia.
“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,” Kanaruj “Artt” Pornspolt is quoted by a publication, khaosod, saying in Thai in his post.
He added, “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.”
“Merry Christmas to Mashia, Milan, Eton and Tanaka. To hope all of you back to your sweet home as soon [sic]. Nice to meet all of you guys.”
While efforts to get a comment from Suvarnabhumi Airport director Srirote Duangrat were allegedly futile, Major General Pruettipong Prayoonsiri, who is an official with the Thailand immigration police, reportedly confirmed the narrative without giving reasons.
“It’s just a normal family, they didn’t do anything,” Pruettipong said this Wednesday.
Although details of how the family ended up in the situation were not immediately available, replies to the post were empathetic.
Many said their situation has a striking resemblance to the film “The Terminal,” cast in 2004 featuring Tom Hanks who plays the role of an eastern European man stuck inside New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“If they entered Thailand, they would be illegal immigrants, and Thailand would have to deport them back to Zimbabwe,” Somyod Mall wrote on Facebook, “But staying in the airport like this, they can’t go back home because of instability. Oh! It feels like torture! And how do they pay for things? Airport prices are really high.”
Millions of Zimbabweans are economic and political refugees across the world having left the country to evade hardships and political violence which had come to be associated with former president Robert Mugabe’s 37 year rule.
The Zimbabwean strongman was resigned last month aged 93 after a revolt by the military which was backed by his own Zanu PF, leaving many Zimbabweans hopeful for a change of fortunes in the country.
Mugabe was replaced by former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa who had been fired from the ruling party by the veteran leader at the behest of a faction which backed his wife Grace as successor.