A tourist has told how he spent more than 100 days trapped inside an airport in the Philippines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roman Trofimov, from Estonia, has been unable to leave the departures hall of Manila International Airport since he arrived on a flight from Bangkok on March 20, because authorities stopped issuing visas for entry into the Philippines.
The roadblock meant Mr Trofimov had to live in the airport – sleeping on the terminal floor, eating in the food court, and washing in the public bathrooms – until the Estonian consulate was able to have him transferred to a passenger lounge on April 1.
He then made a new home in the passenger lounge until he eventually managed to get on a flight to Tallinn, Estonia, which landed today.
The diplomatic nightmare came after what had been a “dream trip” through Southeast Asia before countries such as the Philippines imposed border lockdowns due to the worsening pandemic.
He said his passport was taken by AirAsia staff after he flew from Bangkok to Manila with the airline on March 20.
He had onward travel booked to Cebu province that day but flights were cancelled due to the pandemic, leaving him stranded and unable to leave the airport.
The Estonian embassy was unable to get him on a repatriation flight.
Before he learnt he was able to leave the airport this week, an increasingly desperate Mr Trofimov said he felt like a prisoner.
“I’ve been stuck here for more than 100 days. I need help getting out,” he said, according to The Sun.
“The airline said I need to wait for (the Philippines’) Enhanced Community Quarantine to be over before I am allowed to fly. I’ve been waiting here ever since.’’
Mr Trofimov said he was struggling under the conditions.
“I am a person with disability, my health is getting worse because of malnutrition, lack of sun, and fresh air,” he said.
Estonian media reported Mr Trofimov was travelling on a “grey passport” for people of “unclear citizenship”.
“It is important to note that he flew to the Philippines during a time when countries had announced emergency situations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had given a travel warning,” the Estonian foreign ministry said in a statement in relation to Mr Trofimov’s situation.
The tourist’s situation has been likened to Tom Hanks’ character in the 2004 film The Terminal, about a European man who is forced to live in New York’s JFK airport after being denied entry to the United States.
In 2018, Syrian man Hassan Al Kontar was forced to spend more than seven months living in Kuala Lumpur International Airport after being denied entry into Malaysia.
Mr Kontar, who had spent the past decade in the United Arab Emirates, was deported to Malaysia but refused a renewed passport by the Syrian government, so he was unable to leave the airport or fly out of the country.
He was eventually able to leave the Philippines after applying for Canadian asylum and was later understood to be living and working in Whistler.