Somali refugees stranded at airport in Moscow?Have you ever seen the Tom Hanks movie about the man from Eastern Europe who is stuck in an airport when when his country implodes and invalidates his passport before reaching customs? That movie was based on the real life experience of an Iranian man who was stuck at a French airport due to his own idiocy. The man had acquired refugee status in Belgium, then got on a ferry to England and sent his legal document back to Belgium in the mail, thus leaving him stranded between borders with no legal clearance. Later he wrote a book about it, which I found shoved in the corner of guest house in Varanasi, and have wondered periodically about how the matter was resolved.
But these stories are more than fiction. Such things actually happen.
Today I received an email that said the following:
This past weekend I was traveling in Russia and I encountered a group of 8 Somali refugees who told me they have been stranded in the Moscow airport for the past nine months. I spoke with two who have very good English. The group is safe, but they are sleeping on the airport floor surviving on instant soup and have not been able to leave the airport at all. I’m assuming this is the same group who Rachel encountered in June.I found your contact info on the forced migration list serve via a Google search and am following up to see if you have any additional information or ideas for how to support them. I have referred them to the Advocates for Human Rights, a Minnesota-based organization in the US, but am looking for all ideas for how to help them. The situation seems inhumane and I would like to do whatever I can to assist them in finding a permanent new home. A Russian airport staff person has donated a laptop to the group and they have internet access. Here is the email address that can be used to reach them (email@example.com).Having read something about this sometime during the summer, I was disappointed to learn the situation is otherwise unchanged. Airports are a legal curiosity, as they present passengers with a ‘legal fiction’ of control between border points while remaining trans-national space. Yet I cannot wonder about the particular issues facing this group. Were they denied entry to Russia? Were they denied exit? Were they in transit to another destination but lacked transit visas? What happened? If anyone can tell me more about this, I’d like to hear about it. You can contact me at http://www.mitchell.sipus.com.
Please let me know if you might be able to help this group, or suggest someone who can, or have any advice for the best way to raise the profile of their plight.”