Malayalis stranded in Rome airport face ordeal

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It was more than 24 hours that Jolly Philip had been languishing at the Fiumicino International Airport in Rome with her three-year-old child and there was no clarity yet on when she would be able to board a flight back home in Kochi.

She was among the 40-odd Kochi-bound Malayalis who were booked on a flight scheduled to depart on Tuesday at Italian time 3.10 p.m., but were allegedly turned down by the airline concerned at the last minute on failing to produce medical certificate vouching that they were not infected by COVID-19 as required by the Indian government.

“Our hardships are beyond description and the Indian government will have to intervene for our safe exit without delay. We have been at the airport for more than 24 hours and some among us are beginning to lose hope and are thinking of returning from the airport,” Ms. Philip, a resident of Arayankavu and working at an old age home in Rome for the last 12 years, told over phone from the airport.

Martin Cherumadathil, an electrician in Italy for the last nine years, warned that the young children, including a two-month-old infant, and the pregnant women among the stranded passengers were in danger of getting infected after spending so long in the airport terminal teeming with people.

“Protective gears such as masks and gloves are not available, though none of us have any symptoms right now. It is not possible to get a medical certificate like the one demanded by the Indian government in a country where even a routine appointment with a dentist takes months,” said Mr. Cherumadathil, who was eager to meet his 13-year-old son studying in Angamaly.

Abhijit K.S, had even checked in and was on the verge of boarding when he was turned away by the airline. “Since then there was no decision on our fate and we have been left to do without food and water as nothing was available in the airport,” said the dejected youngster who had gone on a student visa in 2014 and had since been working there.

Liji Martin who had been in Italy for the last nine years said that though there were reports of a medical team from India being sent to Italy, they were still to hear from the Indian embassy.

Denny Cherpanath, working as a social assistant in Rome for the last 22 years, said there was no scope for getting a medical certificate as demanded since hospitals, already stretched attending the infected, were unlikely to spare time conducting tests on people with no immediate symptoms and issue certificates.

“The inexperience of the Italian health machinery in dealing with similar contagions and the lifestyle of the Italian society are what turned it into a pandemic,” said Mr. Cherpanath whose social media post about the plight of Italian Malayalis stranded in the airport had gone viral.

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