ZIM FAMILY STRANDED AT BANGKOK AIRPORT
A Zimbabwean family has been stranded at Bangkok’s main airport for nearly three months.
According to the Thai immigration bureau, the four children under 11 and four adults arrived in Bangkok in May, but are refusing to return to Zimbabwe for fear of persecution.
Immigration bureau spokesman Pol Col Cherngron Rimphadee told the BBC the family initially arrived in Thailand as tourists. They attempted to fly out of Bangkok in October to the Spanish city of Barcelona via Kiev in Ukraine.
But they were denied boarding because they did not have visas to enter Spain. However, they were also unable to re-enter Thailand as they had overstayed their initial tourist visas by five months and had to pay a hefty fine.
They later made arrangements with Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) to fly via Kiev to Dubai instead – and then on to a third country – bypassing European immigration.
However, according to a UIA spokesperson, the family cancelled their tickets for the final leg of their journey, leading them to be sent back from Dubai to Bangkok. The family have refused to be sent back to Zimbabwe, saying they feared “persecution” after the November unrest which saw the removal of 37-year leader Robert Mugabe.
Col Rimphahdee confirmed the family had applied to the UN for asylum, but for now were living in Suvarnabhumi airport and being looked after and fed by airport staff.
He told the BBC’s Thai Service that the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, had “requested” that the family remain in Thailand as it was “working on a process… to send them to a third country”.
A UNCHR spokesperson said they were “currently exploring solutions” but could not provide any further details or confirmation.
Thailand does not provide legal status to refugees and asylum seekers.