Monday, Aug 15, 2022

German Man, Stranded Due To Lockdown, Living At Delhi Airport For Over 50 Days

After Zeibat's flights were cancelled and he was stranded while in transit, Germany refused to take his custody due to his past criminal record.

Planes of different airlines are seen parked at T3 airport during the nationwide lockdown, in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, in New Delhi. PTI Photo

A German man has been stuck at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for past 54 days since March 18 as India started imposing international travel restrictions.

40-year-old Edgard Ziebat got stranded at the transit while on his way from Hanoi to Istanbul on March 18 when India decided to stop all in and outbound flights to Turkey in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hindustan Times reported. Then on March 25, India imposed a national lockdown and cancelled all international flights.

While other passengers stranded at the airport were eventually taken by the embassies of their respective countries, things did not fare for Zeibat. Germany refused to take his custody owing to his criminal record at home, the newspaper reported. India also did not grant him a visa because of the same criminal record of assault and other crimes and hence, he remains in transit.

Even though international passengers can stay in transit for only one day, in absence of an Indian visa, there’s no other way out for Zeibat.

He has been staying alone in the airport terminal with only his luggage, which may remind people of the 2004 film ‘The Terminal’, directed by Steven Spielberg, where the character played by Tom Hanks is stranded at New York’s John F Kennedy airport. When Hanks arrives at the airport, he realises the US does not recognise Krakozhia, a fictional European country he belongs to, as an independent nation anymore due to a civil war.

According to an aiport official, Ziebat spent the last 54 days reading magazines and newspapers, calling his family and friends, dining at few of the food outlets still operating within the terminal, interacting with housekeeping and security staff, taking walks in the transit area, and using the airport’s washrooms and toilets. Authorities also gave him a recliner, mosquito net, toothpaste, food and other essential things.

Some officers visit the man regularly to interact with him to check on his wellbeing, according to officials. Ziebat had told the officers that he can pay for his tickets if his travel is arranged and he has visas of multiple countries, said airport officials quoted by Hindustan Times. But his travel will only be possible once international flights resume.

The airport has not been opened to regular traffic since March 22. However, it is operating cargo flights and some special evacuation flights and is currently involved in the repatriation exercise called Vande Bharat Mission to bring back around 15,000 Indians stranded in 12 countries in the first week of the operation.