Monday, October 21, 2019

OCI holders stopped at Australian airports from boarding flights to India

Mr A Singh*, a long term listener of SBS Punjabi says his elderly parents went through a terrible ordeal when trying to fly to India last week from Tullamarine International Airport in Melbourne.

“My parents were booked to fly in business class on a Thai Airways flight from Melbourne to Delhi last week, and they’ve undertaken this journey several times using their OCI card as the travel document.”

“But to our utter shock, the staff refused to check them in, saying the new Australian passport number didn’t match with the OCI card.”
Mr Singh’s father is an octogenarian and his mother is in her late 70’s, and according to him, “they’ve had their OCI cards for well over a decade and have had new passports issued, maybe two or three times during this period. They had never encountered any problem with a renewed Australian passport before.”

He said what his elderly parents faced this time was “nothing short of harassment,” because the common understanding is that an OCI is a travel document which is valid for the holder’s lifetime.

“We began calling various people to understand what was happening and even spoke to someone in the Ministry of External Affairs in India, who told us this shouldn’t take place. But the staff at Melbourne airport won’t budge.”

Mr Singh says his parents were shown an internal email shared with all check-in staff at Melbourne Airport, which states “Passengers younger than 21 years or older than 50 years must apply for a new OCI card when they get a new passport,” directing staff to check if the passport number matches with that recorded on the OCI.

The internal memo to all airport check-in staff was issued on October 4, but so far, no one has explained what triggered this. Others have also reported a similar experience, with the same email being shown to them by way of explanation.
SBS Punjabi has seen an email sent by an Indian immigration official on 17 September 2019 to the Airline Operators Committee (AOC) in Chennai, requesting it to “take up with all airlines so that harassment to passengers can be avoided.”

The email clearly states that the refusal by some airlines “to bring passengers to India, who seek boarding pass on the strength of OCI card, old passport and new valid passport”,  is an action “against the rules prescribed in the visa manual.” 
21/10/19 SBS Punjabi
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