A German man has been living at India's Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi for the past 54 days, stuck in a sort of indefinite limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hindustan Times reports. The case brings to mind the Tom Hanks move The Terminal, which was itself loosely based on the story of an Iranian man who was stuck in a Paris airport for 18 years.
On March 18, Edgard Ziebat, 40, was traveling from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Istanbul, Turkey, via the New Delhi airport. Unfortunately for the German, his transit through India couldn't have come at a worse time, as the country canceled all flights to and from Turkey that same day.
He wasn't the only foreigner stranded at the airport that day, said a spokesperson.
"After spending around 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," an officer said.
The other stranded passengers were able to get help from their embassies and move on. But not Ziebat; he's a wanted criminal in Germany, with active warrants out for his arrest for "several cases of assault and other crimes registered against him," said the airport spokesperson.
German officials would not, however, arrest him in India, since he was on foreign land.
Further, due to his criminal history, he's ineligible for an Indian visa, which means that he can't leave the airport to wait things out in that country.
That effectively means that he's stuck in the transit area at the airport until further notice. Normally, such passengers can only stay in the facility for 24 hours -- a deadline that came and went 53 days ago.
Meanwhile, Indira Gandhi Airport is all but shut down, save for cargo flights and the rare passenger flight that brings in Indians who had been stranded overseas and are being brought home as part of a government repatriation program.
Ziebat seems to be managing, spending his days reading magazines and newspapers, and talking to his loved ones via video conferencing. He buys food at any of the few concession counters in the facility that are still operating, and he's made friends with airport staff, who have provided him with food, toothpaste, a mosquito net, and other supplies. He does not appear to be in danger of running out of money, as he reportedly told an official he "can manage his expenses."
"He sleeps on the beds, benches, on the floors, wherever he feels like," said an airport spokesperson.
Further, the isolation does not appear to be having a particularly profound effect on him. Officials visit him from time to time, and they say he is healthy both physically and mentally. Further, airport CCTV footage of him doesn't appear to show any signs of him being in distress.
So far, he's attempted to catch a flight to Turkey, but the country is only allowing its own citizens to reenter during the pandemic.