Planes across the globe have been grounded, although most people have been repatriated by their countries – Toby Melville/Reuters
A 40-year-old German fugitive has spent a remarkable 54 days in the transit area of a New Delhi airport, after becoming stranded due to the coronavirus lockdown.
In scenes reminiscent of Hollywood blockbuster The Terminal, Edgard Ziebat is using the bathrooms to wash while airport security staff are providing him with food.
“The person looks physically fine and psychologically he is perfect, he hasn’t asked us for anything,” said a bemused official from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
On March 18, Mr. Ziebat was waiting to catch a connecting flight from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport to Istanbul – where he has family – after a trip to Vietnam.
India suddenly cancelled all flights to and from Turkey in the wake of the pandemic and Mr. Ziebat refused to travel to Germany on remaining commercial flights or subsequent relief flights because he is wanted there on criminal charges, according to the MEA official.
“There is a lookout notice against him and as soon as he reaches there [Germany], he would be arrested,” the official said.
Details of his arrest warrant have not been made public. Mr. Ziebat refused offers to be flown to a third-country or to apply for a temporary entry visa for India.
It is believed that the German Embassy in New Delhi has refused to accept custody of Mr. Ziebat because of his criminal record, which would make it a law enforcement matter.
Officials said Mr. Ziebat has spent the last 54 days reading magazines and newspapers and catching up with family and friends outside the terminal on his mobile phone, which he is able to use through the airport wifi.
He has also been interacting with airport housekeeping staff and taking regular walks around the transit area.
Indians took to social media to express their amazement at the story, as the airport is hardly renowned for its cleanliness.
“Is this human? Show some empathy and ensure he gets back to home,” wrote one.
A source within German foreign ministry circles said it was working on Mr Ziebat’s situation.
“The case is known to the foreign ministry, our embassy in New Delhi is in contact with the Indian authorities about this and the individual concerned has been informed about the possibilities of return to Germany,” said the source.
“We cannot provide further details about individual consular cases for reasons of personal rights and data protection.”