Many children and elderly passengers with Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards are being adversely impacted at Australian airports due to a strict protocol enforced by airline check-in staff for India-bound travellers.
SBS Punjabi has learnt that OCI cardholders who haven’t even recently renewed their Australian passport, and have previously visited India with the same travel documents, are now being denied boarding.
SBS Punjabi reported on Monday that OCI holders travelling to India on a renewed Australian passport were being turned back from international airports due to a ‘mismatch’ of the passport number printed on their OCI card. Several other cases have surfaced of families whose travel plans to India have simply fallen apart.
Nageswara Rao Nagapuri is among those affected and says he had a “devastating experience” which has left his 9-year-old son “traumatised”.
“My wife, daughter, son and I were booked to travel from Melbourne to Hyderabad by Malaysia Airlines on October 19, since my Uncle is really unwell and is in the last stages of his life.”
“We have travelled with the same passports and OCI cards for each of us every year since 2015, and have never encountered any issue before.”
“But on 19th, the staff bluntly denied check-in for my son, saying his passport number didn’t match the number on the OCI. I was even carrying the old passport which matched the number written on the OCI, but we were told this won’t do,” Mr Nagapuri said.
He was told that his son either needed an eVisa or a renewal of the OCI card, without which he wouldn’t be allowed to board any flight to India.
“They showed me an advisory on which they were basing their decision but I think even the advisory doesn’t justify their action,” he said.
What makes the situation even harder to comprehend for Mr Nagapuri is a prior experience he had with the “new passport rule” for OCI holders.
“Back in 2015 -16, when I had recently renewed my son’s passport, I knew about the rule and actually had an eVisa issued for my son before travelling to India. When I reached Hyderabad, the immigration staff literally mocked me, that either I can’t read English or have too much money to throw away, otherwise why would anyone with an OCI need an eVisa,” Mr Nagapuri recalls.
He said Indian immigration officials had assured him at the time that if he kept the old passport with him while travelling, officials will be able to match it with the OCI.
See full article’Devastating experience’: Many children and elderly OCI holders not allowed to board flights to India’ (SBS Punjabi, 22 Oct 2019), here.
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