AFTER spending around seven years in an Indian prison, 41 Somali men returned to their country on Friday in a chartered flight from the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. Around 9.30am, the men were brought to the airport’s Terminal 2 in Mumbai police’s vans from Yellow Gate police station in South Mumbai where they had been kept in “safe custody” since their release from Kolhapur jail on January 2 and January 12.
The ten-hour flight departed at 1.17pm for Somalia capital Mogadishu, over 3000 km from Mumbai. Advocate Vishwajeet Singh, representing the prisoners on behalf of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Somalia, said the men after completing formalities on their arrival in Mogadishu, will be sent home.
Standing in a queue at the airport, the men, keen to return home, were seen smiling, listening to music on shared headphones and carrying backpacks and trolley bags filled with all their belongings collected during their seven-year stay in the country. “During their stay in prison, they had acquired clothes, watches, shoes, books, blankets, bedsheets, provided to them by the embassy or their relatives. They had sought permission to be able to shop before they returned to their families but since there was a restraining order against them… the request was denied,” Singh said.
With no detention facility available in the state, several rooms of officials at Yellow Gate police station were cleared to make space for them till arrangements for their flight were made.