After the Zimbabwean military ousted President Robert Mugabe in November, it seemed like many who fled Mugabe’s authoritarianism might return home. But the opposite is true of one family, who is stranded in Thailand after refusing to return to Zimbabwe, citing fears of civil unrest. There have been few reports if any of dangerous conditions that might prompt refugees to flee, but nonetheless, this family has been haunting Bangkok’s airport for months, much like Tom Hanks in Terminal.
The family went to Thailand months before the coup, arriving in May. Thailand is appealing for many travelers from countries without premier visa programs, because it offers visa-on-arrival. But once that visa term was up, the Zimbabwean family couldn’t stay, nor could they move on to countries that require travelers to apply for visas well ahead of arrival. Unable to get to Spain via the Ukraine as they had hoped in October, and unwilling to return to their country of origin, the two adults and four children have been in the Bangkok airport ever since.
There’s been plenty of sympathy and and hospitality for them there. Airlines have apparently been providing them with food, and several Thai travelers have snapped photos with the family and even brought the children a Christmas gift. Meanwhile, they’re trying to apply for refugee status with the U.N. and find placement somewhere on the globe in a place that isn’t Thailand or Zimbabwe. All while business as usual is going on in Zimbabwe.