Zimbabwean family still stranded at Thailand airport

Thai airport officials talk Wednesday to members of a Zimbabwean family that have been living for three months at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on the outskirts of Bangkok. Photo by EPA-EFE/STR

A ZIMBABWEAN family stuck for months at an airport in Thailand remain stranded there after their plight was revealed last December.

The family of eight, including four children between the ages of two and eleven, arrived in the Thai capital of Bangkok on tourist visas in May last year and overstayed by five months.

They tried to leave for a third country but were thwarted due to the lack of visas after which they were not allowed back into Thailand, having overstayed their initial welcome.

Immigration officials this week told local media that the group remained stranded at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.

They are reportedly awaiting help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), hoping the agency will process their asylum requests and move them to a third country, since Thailand does not officially recognise refugees.

Last October the group tried to fly to Barcelona via Ukraine but were denied boarding passes because they did not have visas to enter Spain.

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.

Arrangements were then made 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.

Thai officials have tried to send the family back to Zimbabwe but they reportedly refused saying they feared persecution by the government.

When the left Zimbabwe long-time ruler Robert Mugabe was still in power and wanting another fiver-year-term in office despite being 93 years-old and having ruled the country for 37 years.

He was however toppled after a military revolt in November. Successor Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged Zimbabweans in the diaspora to return home and help rebuild the country.