A Zimbabwean family which was stuck in the departure lounge of Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand since last October has finally left for Philippines.
A Thai immigration bureau spokesman, Pol Col Cherngron Rimphadee, confirmed saying the family of four children under 11 years and four adults, left Bangkok for the Philippines this Monday after months at the airport.
It was, however, not clear whether or not they would proceed to any other country. However what is clear is their unwillingness to return home were they claim they fear persecution.
According to BBC, a UNHCR spokeswoman told the Coconuts website that the agency would not comment on the family’s case in isolation.
The family first arrived in Bangkok in May and tried to leave for Spain in October without success because they did not have the correct visas.
Without the Spanish visas, they could only be accommodated in the airport as they could not legally re-enter Thailand because their tourist visas had long expired too. They paid a fine but reportedly flatly refused to return home.
Suvarnabhumi Airport staff were providing food.
Officials claimed they had assisted the family in making arrangements with Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) to fly via Kiev to Dubai instead – and then on to a third country – bypassing European immigration.
But 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.
BBC said the family asked for assistance from the UN but the body only said at the time it was “exploring options”. Thailand does not provide legal status to refugees and asylum seekers.
Their plight came to light last December after one of the airport’s employees posted a photo with a caption summarizing their ordeal.
Millions of Zimbabweans are economic and political refugees across the world. They left the country to evade hardships and political violence which had come to be associated with former president Robert Mugabe’s 37 year rule.
Now Zimbabweans in and outside Zimbabwe are hoping for a turnaround following Mugabe’s ignoble end to his presidency in a militarized power transition which left his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa as successor last month.