Spanish dream for this illegal immigrant gone bust

6th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

A terminally-ill Bolivian has been denied entry on the plane because the airline needs a medical certificate saying he wouldn’t die.

6 August 2008

MADRID - The Spanish dream - if you can so call becoming an illegal immigrant and leaving three children behind some 8,700 kilometres away - has turned into a nightmare for David Carlos Zapata Garnica and his wife Maruja Arias Quiroga.

This Bolivian couple has given up on their dreams to prosper in Spain and want to return to Cochabamba so that he can spend his last days with his children.

Zapata has cancer of the bones, which has spread to other parts of his body. He does not have long to live.

With their last savings and help from their family, they were prepared to take a flight that would have taken them back to Bolivia. But Aerosur, which operates the route on behalf of Air Comet, has told them they cannot board unless they present a medical certificate guaranteeing that he won't die during the 12-hour journey.

The airline insists that all it wants is to ensure Zapata's safety as well as that of the rest of the passengers.

But Zapata only wants to return to his native country because he has nothing more to accomplish in Spain - he is no longer capable of sending money to his children.

The medical certificate he was able to obtain hasn't done him any good. In it, doctors state that his condition is stable and that he needs an oxygen tank. But Aerosur still refused, saying at first that the tank could become an in-flight hazard.

When an Aerosur spokesman was reminded that such a reasoning was not supported in airline regulations, the spokesman explained that all the company wanted was to avoid an in-flight death.

AENA, the air transportation authority, allows medical devices, including oxygen tanks, as long as they are prescribed by a physician. According to AENA, it is up to the doctors to determine whether a person is able to fly because of a health condition.

"We are still checking over the medical certificates," said an Air Comet spokesman. "But you have to realize that an oxygen tank can be considered a dangerous artefact as well as a medical device."

Neither Aerosur nor Air Comet has met with Zapata or his wife. Nor have they tried to conduct their own evaluation of the patient.

In the meantime, Zapata remains hospitalised at the Madrid Clinic. "We have no money to rent a room," he says. "My wife has been sleeping for a month on a chair. I am desperate. We don't want any money because we already have our tickets. I am just scared that we are going to have to postpone our flight again."

They have appealed to the Bolivian Embassy, which the couple says has not responded to their petition.

[El Pais / E. De. Benito / M. R. Sahuquillo / Expatica]

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