KOLLAM: It will be a memorable Christmas reunion for 38-year-old Austrian citizen Martina Kropej. She will be reuniting with her mother in her homeland after spending 22 months in a jail in Thiruvananthapuram.
Her ordeal began when she was arrested by the local police in Karunagappally when she overstayed for five days after her tourist visa expired back in February 2016. After being sent to women’s prison in Poojappura, she was mentally disturbed and failed to get proper legal aid which prolonged her detention. Of late, she was legally supported by Pravasi Legal Cell an NGO in Delhi and was released on Friday. Ms Kropej was on a tour to India in 2016 and reached Kerala after visiting tourist spots in North India. She failed to notice that her visa expired and continued her tour for another five days before she was arrested in Karunagappally.
Shifted to women's prison, her mental condition worsened. She could not approach the Court or seek legal aid owing to her plight. Her only relative was her ailing mother in Austria. Ms Kropej was eventually shifted to a correction home in Attukulangara.
The Austrian embassy in Delhi recently noticed her plight and contacted the authorities with the help of an NGO. The Embassy officials also visited her in the correction home. The issue was taken up with the court.
“The law should be legislated to deport foreigners who overstay,” said lawyer Jose Abraham, president of the Pravasi Legal Cell.
“The Cell intends to approach the Supreme Court with a Public Interest Litigation on this issue as there are several foreign nationals imprisoned in jails in India for merely overstaying," he added.
Martina Kropej has flown from Thiruvananthapuram international airport to meet her mother in Austria on Friday night.