Four Malayali men detained in Fiji by immigration officials to return on Sunday

It is still not clear why the men, who had gone from Thrissur as tourists and landed in Fiji on June 28, were detained by immigration authorities.
Four Malayali men detained in Fiji by immigration officials to return on Sunday
Four Malayali men detained in Fiji by immigration officials to return on Sunday
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A group of friends from Thrissur in Kerala who had gone on a leisure trip to the Fiji islands have been detained for over a week allegedly after their belongings were taken.

Sujeesh, Maxin, Ajmal and Sam, all in their late 20s and hailing from different parts of Thrissur, went on a seven-day trip on June 27 and landed the next day. The four friends are businessmen in Armenia and were on vacation in Thrissur when they planned the trip. 

“The immigration clearance had been done at the Cochin International Airport and they had even confirmed the hotel booking there. The travel was on SilkAir. At first, we received a voice message on WhatsApp from one of them saying that they were trapped and pleading to inform the embassy,” Aseem Hussian, a friend of them told TNM.

Aseem is also a businessman in Armenia and had come with the four of them on vacation to Thrissur.

Later, according to Aseem, their mobile phones, purses and other belongings were snatched and they were kept in a hotel room with a guard outside to monitor them. “They were allowed to use mobile phones only a few times. They had around $90,000 with them which they kept as show money (the money one should keep while on a foreign trip to prove that they can finance their trip), but that was also taken from them. Two days ago, we got a message from them asking to book tickets back home and we booked the ticket for Saturday. But later we were informed that the authorities there booked the ticket and deducted the money for it from their show money,” Aseem says.

The reason for the men being detained is yet to be ascertained. “In one of the messages, it was being said that it was because they didn’t answer the questions at the immigration counter properly and that was told as the reason for detaining them. But even in that case, they should have been repatriated soon, ” Aseem says.

Relatives and friends of the men first contacted the Cochin airport immigration wing, SilkAir and later the Fiji High Commissionerate in Delhi and department of Non-Resident Keralites Affairs (Norka).

“Norka had intervened in the issue. Their belongings were taken and they were not allowed to communicate with the Indian Embassy people or with their families. The Chief Minister had then directed Norka and after their intervention, arrangements for their return journey were made,” according to a statement from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office.

“The reason for the detention is to be determined. We were informed about it on Friday and we immediately intervened. Weekend is a holiday in Fiji and we will be able to follow it up on Monday,” Norka CEO Harikrishnan Namboothiri told TNM.

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