A Zimbabwean family of eight is still stuck at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, three months after they were denied boarding flights to Spain because they had overstayed their Thai tourist visas — at the same time, having overstayed, they could not re-enter Thailand and have refused to go back to their country, citing fears for their safety.
Immigration Police told Khaosod English yesterday that the family, with four children between the ages of 2 and 11, has not been moved to a detention center but are awaiting help from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), hoping that agency will process their asylum requests and move them to a third country, since Thailand does not officially recognize refugees.
They have previously attempted to reach Spain via Ukraine, an attempt that was thwarted due to their not possessing Spanish visas.
Over the holidays, Panupat Danpanich, an assistant liaison officer with UNHCR Thailand said they had accepted the case and were trying to “find the best solution for them.”
Immigration police said the family entered Thailand in May on tourist visas. When they attempted to leave for Barcelona on Oct. 23, they were barred from boarding at passport control because they had overstayed their tourist visas by five months.
Thailand then attempted to send the family back to Zimbabwe, but they refused.
Since they had overstayed their Thai visas by several months, they were also banned from re-entering the country, as is standard procedure.
Comparisons were quickly made with the 2004 film The Terminal, in which a man played by Tom Hanks finds himself stuck in a New York City airport after his government collapses, rendering his travel documents useless.
Zimbabwe’s military pushed out 93-year-old despot Robert Mugabe in November, paving the way for a transition from decades of mismanagement and authoritarian rule.
But there has been little unrest and the new president has encouraged Zimbabweans who fled under Mugabe’s rule to return home.
The family’s situation received media attention last month when airport employee Kanaruj Artt Pornspolt posted a photo of him giving one of the children a Christmas gift.
With reporting by AFP