Two Namibian children, Aesha Tjikongo (16) and Liam Tjikongo (7) were stranded at the Hamad International Airport in Doha (Qatar) yesterday after being barred to proceed to England for the funeral of a close relative.
Aesha and Liam were travelling from Windhoek with their aunt/mother Charmaine Tjikongo, and four other relatives on Monday.
The funeral, set for tomorrow, is for Namibian-born Simone Sayer who died about a month ago. The group is expected to return home next week.
Charmaine is Simone's sister, and Aesha is Simone's daughter. Liam is Charmaine's son. Simone's parents and two aunts were also in the group.
A distraught cousin of Simone, Merwin Kensington, yesterday told The Namibian from London that Simone had said on her wedding day that when she died, her remains should be returned to Namibia.
"Her husband (Darren Sayer) agreed in front of the priest but has decided otherwise, and thought of keeping her remains in England.
"We were at loggerheads with him, but to make peace, we decided to travel to the UK for the funeral, and now we are facing these challenges at the 11th hour," said Kensington.
He said the group of seven made a stopover at Doha airport and were about to board the flight to London's Heathrow International Airport, when the children were stopped, allegedly on instructions from the British operator.
"They said the children must be sent back to Namibia. They could not give reasons except something like the boy might be traumatised by the funeral, and the daughter (Aesha) was blacklisted or something - which we knew nothing about. Nobody could help us till now," Kensington said. Charmaine decided to stay with the children, but Kensington said when the other relatives arrived at Heathrow, they were welcomed with open arms - with officials even knowing that they were there for a funeral.
These officials also apparently did not know or give a reason as to why the children were prohibited from going to England.
Kensington said Doha airport authorities told her that the British high commission in Namibia must give the go-ahead for the Doha immigration liaisons officer to let the children board the plane.
"The British government has immigration liaison officers in each country to carry-out pre-checks at airports," according to Kensington. "The children are so traumatised. Why not just allow the daughter to be at her mother's funeral?" The British high commission said that they would get back to this newspaper with the facts.
The acting executive director at the international relations ministry, Sabine Böhlke-Möller, was not available but her secretary said that she would pass on the message to call back.
Neither called back by the time of going to print.