In a sensational case, a middle-aged German man, who is a wanted criminal in his home country, has been living in the transit area of Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi for the past 54 days owing to an untoward crisis.
Forty-year-old Edgard Ziebat landed in New Delhi from Vietnam in a VietJet Air flight as a transit passenger to Istanbul on March 18, the day India cancelled all flights to and from Turkey. He was on his way to Hanoi. India suspended all international flights four days later that was followed by the imposition of a stringent lockdown on March 25 in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the suspension of international flights, several passengers were left stranded at the Delhi airport, but Ziebat’s case was unique. When airport authorities contacted the German embassy, they refused to take his custody because of his criminal records in Germany. As a result, India, too, did not give him a visa, the Hindustan Times reported.
“After a week in the transit area, with four other stranded passengers who arrived in Delhi on different dates — two from Sri Lanka and one each from the Maldives and the Philippines — airport authorities alerted their respective embassies. While others were facilitated by their respective embassies and were quarantined, the German embassy informed the Indian bureau of immigration that Ziebat has several cases of assault and other crimes registered against him and that they won’t take his custody given that he is in a foreign land," an officer said on condition of anonymity.
The officer added that the Delhi Police and airport operator DIAL (Delhi International Airport Limited) were also apprised of the situation.
The German embassy did not respond to calls and text messages regarding the development.
When apprised by the Embassy about his criminal record, India did not authorise Ziegat with a visa to leave the airport as his offenses were taken into consideration. But, Ziebat has also not formally applied for an Indian visa, the officer said.
In India, an international passenger requires an Indian visa to step out of the transit area and can normally stay there for just one day.
Thus, Ziebat has been languishing in the terminal with his luggage since March 18.
“He has spending days reading magazines and newspapers, talking to his friends and family over the phone, eating at some of the fast-food outlets still in operation within the terminal, interacting with housekeeping and security staff, taking walks within the transit area, and using the airport’s washrooms and toilets,” said another official to HT, adding that they have been providing him with basic essentials such as a recliner, mosquito net, toothpaste, food.
The man informed the Delhi airport authority officials that he can manage his expenses and has been living alone in the transit area. “He sleeps on the beds, benches, on the floors, wherever he feels like,” said the second officer.
Meanwhile, the report quoted a DIAL spokesperson confirming his the foreign national’s stay in the transit area at the international terminal of IGI airport. “Appropriate authorities were informed about this in good time. They are in dialogue with the foreign national,” he said.
“We were worried for his health towards May. Some of the officials were sent to meet Ziebat and they found that he was fine, physically and mentally. He interacted clearly, and was in all his senses. CCTV footage was also checked, and nothing suspicious was found. Since then, some officers visit the German man regularly to interact with him just to get an idea of his well-being,” he added.
“It was found that he has visas of multiple countries. The officials concerned have told him that it will only be possible for them to send him away once international flights resume,” the officer said, adding that he asked to leave and go wherever he wants, but since no flights are operational, he has been stranded.
“About a week ago, attempts were also made to accommodate him on a relief flight to Ankara (Turkey) but Turkish authorities turned down the proposal stating that the flight was only for Turkish nationals or for their permanent residents,” the officer said.
Apart from the special repatriation flights under Vande Bharat Mission, in India, only cargo flights are operating amid a nationwide lockdown.
Meanwhile, sources in the government have told CNN-News18 that flight operations are also likely to resume in a phased manner from May 17. According to sources, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security and Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Monday visited airports to oversee final preparations of commercial flights.