In November of this year, African dictator Robert Mugabe was removed from office both by the military and a popular uprising in his country. For a family that was at that moment holidaying in Thailand, this had some serious consequences. The Zimbabwean family of eight say they feared persecution if they returned to Zimbabwe and therefore wanted to fly out of Bangkok to the Spanish city of Barcelona via Kiev in Ukraine.
According to the Thai immigration bureau, the four children under 11 and four adults arrived in Bangkok in May, and as they have overstayed their tourist visa and cannot obtain the necessary documents to travel on to Europe, they have been stuck in a Bangkok airport terminal for nearly three months now.
After someone who said he worked at Suvarnabhumi airport had posted a photo on Facebook of himself giving a little African girl a Christmas present, their situation quickly went viral. But as people say that no one is actually being persecuted in Zimbabwe for the moment, many are doubting the truthfulness of their story.
Their situation has been compared to the Steven Spielberg movie ‘The terminal’ in which Tom Hanks plays a man caught in diplomatic limbo. The film is based on the real life story of Iranian Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lived in Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris for 18 years.
But the responsible for Bangkok airport, Colonel Rimphadee said: "Please try not to compare this to the movie. Their situation is not as dramatic, actually they have plenty of options."
"They could travel to other countries that are willing to take them… We also offered to relocate them to our holding centre where there is childcare. But they refused. They are happy to stay here."
My question is : What are the magic words that one must utter to be allowed to stay at an airport and not be arrested? Airports must have some sort of status that most aren't aware of in order for these people to get to just live at an airport!