Kochi: Over 100 Keralite pilgrims who went to the Vatican to attend the canonization of St Chavara Kuriakose Elias and St Euphrasia are understood to be ‘missing’, triggering speculation that they have gone underground in search of jobs to eke out a living in Italy.
According to a travel agent, this number could go up to even 200 but many travel agents are maintaining silence hoping that it could be sorted out soon.
It is understood that Oasis Travels, Seagull Tours and Travels, Riya Travels and Intersight, among others, had transported people to the Vatican on this occasion.
It is also suspected that a majority of the missing are women. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 Malayalees descended on various Italian cities on this occasion.
M.K. Biju, manager of Seagull Travells, confirmed that five persons from their 16-member contingent had gone missing and they had approached the Indian Embassy in Italy and the police there before the contingent’s departure a few days ago.
“But since the visas of all the persons were from Novemebr 21-30, the authorities there said that they could launch a probe only after the expiry of the visa,” said Biju.
Biju also said that he approached the office of the Commissioner of Police, Kochi, on Monday to lodge a complaint but could not do so since the Commissioner was not available.
He said he would lodge the complaint at the earliest while the company’s representative in the Vatican would follow up there.
It is learnt that it is easy for those who go missing to resurface after two years and reside there by appropriating papers.
Biju also said that a much larger number of persons who had gone for the canonization of St Alphonsa absconded after reaching there.
“Such acts mar the credibility of agencies and we will find it hard to secure visas for other people to Italy and other countries in future,” said Biju.
Meanwhile, Robi Kannanchira, director, Chavara Cultural Centre, who led a team to the Vatican for the canonization last month, said that all the 248 people in the church team who were taken by Oasis Travels had returned.
“Another 12 priests and a nun taken by Fortune Travels also returned,” he said adding he had not received any complaints of people not returning.