The strange, legally uncertain, limbo area of the airport transit zone – Edward Snowden
Amid the thousands of people passing through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Edward Snowden is apparently staying put there. He is not the first person to be stranded in the legally ambiguous zone between the arrivals gate and the immigration desks of an international airport. Russian authorities says Snowden is in the airport’s transit area, has not passed through Russian immigration, so he is not technically in Russia and is free to leave. Snowden could end up joining the roster of unwilling airport residents whose ordeals, suspended between states, have stretched on for months or even years. Saying the transit area is not officially in the country is more a diplomatic convention than a legal reality, according to an immigration expert. “Many nations pretend that airport transit lounges are not part of their territory, indeed not under their jurisdiction. As a matter of international law, this is completely false. Sheremetyevo has seen crowds of refugees from countries including Afghanistan and Somalia living in corridors awaiting refugee status – a strange existence, without purpose.
Snowden just latest in list of figures trapped in transit limbo
Amid the thousands of people passing through Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Edward Snowden is – if Russia’s government is to be believed – staying put. That makes his situation unusual, but for all its extraordinary elements of intrigue, it’s not unique.
The former National Security Agency contractor who leaked US surveillance secrets is not the first person to be stranded in the legally ambiguous zone between the arrivals gate and the immigration desks of an international airport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Snowden is in the airport’s transit area after flying in from Hong Kong on Sunday. Authorities in Moscow say he is not officially in Russia and is free to leave.
But US officials have issued a warrant for his arrest and have revoked his passport – meaning that there are few places he can go.
Snowden could end up joining the roster of unwilling airport residents whose ordeals, suspended between states, have stretched on for months or even years.
Putin said on Tuesday that Snowden has not passed through Russian immigration, so he is not technically in Russia.
That’s moe a diplomatic convention than a legal reality, according to James C Hathaway, director of the Program on Refugee and Asylum Law at the University of Michigan law school.
“Moscow airport is as much a part of Russia as is the Kremlin,” Hathaway said in an e-mail.
“Many nations pretend that airport transit lounges are not part of their territory, indeed not under their jurisdiction. As a matter of international law, this is completely false.”
Nonetheless, airport transit areas provide a limbo zone in which human beings can sometimes get lost. Moscow’s Sheremetyevo has seen crowds of refugees from countries including Afghanistan and Somalia living in corridors awaiting refugee status, and Russia has been accused of using the airport as a convenient way of stalling asylum requests.
In 2010 the US State Department cited the case of 16 Somali asylum seekers who “spent several months living in the airport’s transit zone, at times compelled to beg for food from airline passengers”. The State Department report said they were unable to apply for Russian asylum and were forced to turn to the United Nations for help.
Iranian human rights activist Zahra Kamalfar spent more than nine months in the airport’s transit lounge with her two children in 2006-2007 before Canada granted her asylum.
Other airport denizens have become stranded through bureaucratic or political misfortune. Chinese human rights activist Feng Zhenghu camped out at Tokyo’s Narita airport for three months in 2009 after Chinese officials barred him from returning home. He slept on a plastic bench and survived on handouts of crackers and noodles from passers-by until Chinese authorities relented and let him fly to Shanghai.
Hiroshi Nohara of Japan spent almost three months at Mexico City’s airport in 2008, becoming a local celebrity, frequently interviewed by television crews. He turned out to have a valid visa for Mexico, and never disclosed the reasons for his stay.
The most famous airport resident was Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian who spent 18 years inside Terminal 1 of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. He lost papers confirming his refugee status and got stuck in a bureaucratic vicious circle with officials from several European countries refusing to provide him with documents that would allow him to leave the terminal.
His airport life there developed a kind of domestic routine. He slept on a red plastic bench surrounded by his boxes and bags. The pharmacy took his phone calls and fast food restaurants provided him with meals. But it was also a Kafkaesque existence, without purpose.
“Here, it’s not life. It’s just staying like a passenger and waiting for departure,” Mehran told the AP in 2004, when he’d been in the airport for 16 years. “To be here is just like being in transit.”
Mehran’s ordeal, which ended in 2006 when he was hospitalised, was recast as a romantic comedy in the movie The Terminal, in which Tom Hanks played a man denied entry to the United States because his native country descended into a civil war. Stuck at New York’s JFK airport, he falls in love with a flight attendant.
The eventual outcome of Snowden’s predicament is unclear. As a wanted man without a passport, his travel options are extremely limited.
His best bet could be to seek political asylum from a country that would grant him safe passage. Iceland has been mentioned, and Ecuador says it has already received an asylum request from Snowden.
“Having documents to travel is not a prerequisite to applying for asylum,” said Laura Padoan of the United Nations refugee agency.
The UN agency says there are established procedures allowing countries to grant travel documents for the resettlement of refugees who do not have passports or other papers.
It’s unclear whether Snowden possesses such a document. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been aiding Snowden’s journey, says Ecuador has granted him a refugee document that will allow him to travel. Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, however, has said he does not know what travel documents Snowden is using.
Ecuador says it is considering Snowden’s asylum request – but Patino said on Wednesday that coming to a decision might take months.
Edward Snowden ‘could be in limbo in Moscow airport for months’
Edward Snowden, the US intelligence whistleblower, could remain stuck in limbo in a Moscow airport for weeks or months, it emerged on Wednesday.
By Tom Parfitt, Moscow and Malcolm Moore in Beijing
26 Jun 2013 (Telegraph)
Russian media reported a source “close to Mr Snowden” saying that he could be forced to stay in Russia indefinitely because US authorities had annulled his passport.
President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the former CIA and National Security Agency technician is staying legally in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport after flying in on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he leaked details of widespread surveillance by US security services of American citizens’ emails and telephone calls.
There appeared little urgency over his departure, however. The Daily Telegraph and other media scoured Sheremetyevo’s three southern terminals on Wednesday but airport staff, receptionists at a capsule hotel, policemen, Russian consular officials and passengers all claimed they had not seen the American.
It seemed likely the whistleblower was in a closed area of the airport and WikiLeaks, the organisation that has been supporting Mr Snowden, said he was safe and well.
Mr Snowden was originally booked to fly on from Moscow to Havana on Monday but was not seen on board.
Ecuador’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that the South American country could take months to decide on an asylum application received from Mr Snowden.
Mr Putin said on Tuesday that Mr Snowden, 30, would not be extradited to the US but that the fugitive American should decide on his final port of call as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong defended its decision to allow the American to fly to Moscow, saying that paperwork from the United States demanding his arrest confused his middle name and lacked his passport number.
US federal prosecutors filed espionage charges against Mr Snowden earlier this month and politicians in Washington have criticised Russia and China for allegedly facilitating his escape.
The Kremlin gave no indication the American would be forced to leave Sheremetyevo airport, despite exceeding a 24-hour limit for transit passengers without a Russian visa.
Terminal man at Manchester – £40K tax cash to live at airport
By Chris Riches
A UNIVERSITY lecturer has landed in a row for spending a year living in an airport
– all funded by the taxpayer.
Dr Damian O’Doherty, 42, is at Manchester Airport spending up to 18 hours a day
for the next 12 months observing passengers’ and workers’ habits.
But the £40,000 project, paid for by Lord Mandelson’s Department of Business,
Innovation and Skills, has been attacked as a waste of money.
Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “This shows just how out of
touch the Government is with the views of taxpayers.
“If the department wanted to find out how people interact in an airport, all
they needed to do was to rent Tom Hanks’ film The Terminal.”
Dr O’Doherty is already nicknamed The Terminal Man, in reference to the 2004
movie about the man who lived at an airport when refused entry into America.
The research is to understand how airports affect people with a view to making
their environment a better place to live and work.
But passengers travelling in and out yesterday said they were confused about
the study. Sharon Greenall, 41, said: “It seems a bit of a weird thing to research,
people’s behaviour in airports. Why not people’s behaviour at train stations or
Unemployed Peter Webb, 37, who was picking up a relative, said: “It seems daft.
It must be costing a lot of money to pay someone to spend all year doing that.
“I would think the Government has got better things to do with that money – like
help me find a decent job as there are none around.”
airports for five years and I just thought this would be the opportunity to experience
airport life for myself.
Plane crazy? Meet the academic who will spend the next year living in an airport
Jet setter: Anthropologist Dr Damian O’Doherty will study passenger and workers’
habits at Manchester Airport
Most people would regard hanging around for hours in an airport as something
to be avoided. But an academic has chosen to spend a year in one – financed by the taxpayer.
Anthropologist Dr Damian O’Doherty, 42, is living for up to 18 hours a day for
the next 12 months in terminals and departure lounges, observing passengers’ and
workers’ habits. The exercise is expected to cost around £40,000.
Dr O’Doherty has already been nicknamed Terminal Man, in reference to the 2004
film in which Tom Hanks plays a man who is forced to live at an airport when refused
entry into America.
The film is believed to be based on the plight of Iranian Mehran Karimi Nas who
lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years.
The Government-funded research will take place at Manchester Airport and is intended
to investigate how airports affect people, with the aim of making them better
places to visit or work.
But Manchester University’s project, paid for by Lord Mandelson’s Department
of Business, Innovation and Skills, has been attacked as money down the drain.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘This is a
complete waste of money and shows just how out of touch the Government is with
the views of taxpayers.
‘If the department wanted to find out how people interact in an airport, all
they needed to do was to rent the Tom Hanks film.
‘Surely that would be better than squandering tens of thousands of pounds getting
someone to research it for a year.’
With its own police station, fire service, huge retail complex and even chapel,
Manchester Airport has become like a small city.
They commute from place to place, have business meetings in an airport hotel and
then fly off somewhere else.
‘I call them the “kinetic elite” – always on the go, fixing business deals on
their laptops, at the same time talking on their iPhone and perhaps posting a
Twitter to friends and family.
‘I’ve been researching airports for five years and I just thought this would
be the opportunity to experience airport life for myself.
‘I enjoy sitting in the coffee shops watching the hustle of airport life but
I am spending a lot of time shadowing project managers – I’m trying to think and
act like one.’
Father-of-one Dr O’Doherty, who works at the university’s Manchester Business
School, is spending all day and most of the night in and around the three terminals
at the airport.
But he goes home to his family in Withington, Greater Manchester, every night.
Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, the project will finish at the
end of the year.