Credit: Representational image

New Delhi: A wanted criminal from Germany has been living in the transit area of Indira Gandhi International Airport for 54 days owing to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Edgard Ziebat, 40, was stranded in transit while he was on his way from Hanoi to Istanbul on March 18. Incidentally, that was the day when India decided to stop all-out and inbound flights to Turkey. He landed from Vietnam in New Delhi via a VieJet Air flight as a transit passenger to Istanbul. Four days later, India stopped all international flights and imposed stringent lockdown from March 25 in regards to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

While the other international passengers, who were stranded on the airport, were taken to their respective embassies of their countries, Ziebat’s case caused some complications. Due to his criminal record, the German embassy refused to take his custody. India too did not grant him a visa owing to the same criminal record of assault and various other crimes as well.

When advised by the Embassy about his criminal record, India didn’t approve Ziegat with a visa to leave the airport terminal as his offenses were contemplated. Likewise, Ziebat has not officially applied for an Indian visa as well. An international passenger in India can normally remain in transit for just a day and would require a visa to step out of transit.

Reports state that the German passenger has been keeping himself busy by reading magazines and newspapers chatting with his family and friends over the phone. He has been eating at some of the food outlets which are still in operation within the transit area and using the washroom facilities in the airport itself. He also has been interacting with the security and housing staff. He was also provided with some basic necessities by the airport officials which include food, mosquito net, recliner, and toothpaste. The man has also informed the airport authority that he can manage his expenses.

Officials have been visiting Ziebat regularly to keep a check in his physical and mental wellbeing. The officers mentioned that he has visas of various countries and that he can pay for his travel expenses if his travel can be arranged. Hence, a few days earlier, attempts were made to accommodate him on a relief flight to Turkey but the authorities turned the proposal down as the flight was on for Turkish nationals.

The air terminal is still closed to regular traffic since March 22. In any case, it is working payload/cargo flights and some exceptional evacuation flights and is right now associated with the repatriation practice called ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded in 12 nations.

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