Corona times: Saving a stranded Spaniard

Spanish mission in Mumbai rescues national from migrant camp


April 7, 2020

/ By / Mumbai

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Saving a stranded Spaniard

Mariano Cabrero at a migrant camp in Versova, Mumbai

At a time when the entire nation is under a lockdown and all airports shut following the Coronavirus outbreak, a Spanish national will be able to be reunited with his family, thanks to a special flight that will leave Mumbai this Thursday.

On December 5, 2019, when Mariano Cabrero, a retired Spanish teacher, from Pontevedra in north-western Spain, landed in Mumbai, little did he know what fate had in store for him. A regular visitor to India, Cabrero had come on a four month solo trip, which included a visit to Nepal. It was another fun trip for him that would soon turn into a nightmare.

Like many other tourists, Cabrero headed to Rajasthan that was supposed to be his last destination on this trip. However, fate had some other plans for him. On March 21, 2020, the hotel where he was staying advised him to check out and rush to Mumbai since all international flights were soon going to be shut. Cabrero took the earliest flight from Udaipur to Mumbai on March 22, to be able to catch a flight back to Spain but was told at Mumbai airport that all flights had been cancelled.

“Before the lockdown I was in Rajasthan where I was told to go back because flights were going to be cancelled. I came to Mumbai on March 22 to take a flight back but all the flights had been shut. I had no clue what to do next or where to go,” a visibly lost Cabrero tells Media India Group.

As he was not sure whether he’d be able to find a hotel in Mumbai, Cabrero decided to stay at the airport itself. However, he was soon asked to leave the airport as they were going to shut it down.  “I slept at the airport for days but soon was asked to leave as they said they were closing it down.”

It was then the Mumbai police brought him from the airport to a migrant camp at Versova, in north-west Mumbai. In a camp that had nearly 285 migrants, Mariano stood out because of his Caucasian appearance. Dressed in an olive green jacket, saffron t-shirt that had Om printed on it, sporting trekking shoes and a garland made up of rudraksha beads, Cabrero had arrived at the camp just a couple of days before Media India Group met him.

Cabrero said that he had felt much safer at the airport as he had access to clean bathrooms over there and his luggage was also safe. He further added that he had tried to contact the Spanish mission but was told that everything was closed till April 14.

However, Media India Group contacted the Consulate General of Spain in Mumbai and spoke to the consul general, Jorge de Lucas Cadenas, who said he was aware of the case and was taking urgent action to repatriate him. “As soon as we got the information about Mariano Cabrero, we called the camp and got in touch with him. We spoke to his ex-wife and got them in touch. Soon we are going to get him on-board the next European flight that departs on April 9, that is, in the next two days.”

Jorge de Lucas Cadenas, consul general of Spain, Mumbai

Cadenas said that to his knowledge there were no other Spanish citizens who were stranded in western or southern India, the areas under the jurisdiction of the Mumbai Consulate General. “There were quite a few of them who had been stuck in India. There were people in Goa and Karnataka. So, on April 4, we organised a special flight from Goa to Spain and a total of 135 Spanish nationals were repatriated back home by us. The police in Karnataka helped our nationals stuck in that state reach Goa well in time to be able to take the special flight. Similarly, the officials in Goa, notably, R Menaka, collector (North Goa), Ajit Roy, collector (South Goa) and Mamu Hage, deputy collector, Bardez, and others in Mumbai, too, have been very helpful in assisting our nationals in the time of this crisis,” Cadenas told Media India Group.

He added that there were some other Spanish nationals still in India, notably in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but as they were comfortable wherever they were, the consulate general asked them to stay put.

On April 9, four months and four days after his arrival in Mumbai, and almost two weeks after the dream vacation turned into a nightmare, Cabrero will finally get back home. This trip to India, unlike his other trips, is definitely one that he’d never forget.



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