Viktor Navorski  of fictious Eastern European country, Krakozhia, is stuck living in a terminal at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport when he is denied entry into the U.S. for lack of a visa, but he cannot return to his native country due to war.

This is the part actor Tom Hanks played in the 2004 comedy-drama, The Terminal, but it's also similar to the real life situation of one Sri Lankan man now spending his days and nights in a Venezuelan airport 13 miles outside Caracas.

Not much is known by the general public about the unidentified man, in part, because he doesn't speak Spanish and his English is limited. Word spread about the man when he was discovered sitting in the Gate 22 waiting area of Simón Bolívar International Airport of Maiquetia by Argentine reggae rock band, Los Pericos. The band members of Los Pericos attempted to video interview the man, who, seemingly in good spirits, smiles and gives a thumbs up. Despite not obtaining much solid information, Los Pericos uploaded the video to YouTube, identifying him simply as "Parameswaran" and from there, the story gained momentum.  

According to Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, a Maiquetia airport representative has confirmed that there is man who has been living at the airport for the past three months because he lacks the required documentation. In the video taken by Los Pericos, it says that he has been there for four months. Parameswaran is unable to return to Sri Lanka due to an armed conflict in the region but Venezuelan authorities have not provided him with a visa to enter their country either.

There is much confusion surrounding Parameswaran, including little knowledge and conflicting stories from various sources about the long journey that brought him to his current location at Maiquetia Airport. According to the Sri Lankan man, he arrived in Mexico six months ago but was deported to Venezuela. While no explanation has publicly been given as to why the man was deported and why, of all places, to Venezuela, an anonymous source at the airport is quoted as saying, "Someone made a mistake."

The man is receiving help from Conviasa airline workers, a human rights NGO, and Venezuelan immigration officials, who have provided him with a bed and food, but he is still unable to leave the terminal.  To complicate matters, even if Venezuela chose to deport Parameswaran, there are no direct flights from Venezuela to Sri Lanka – the man would require documentation to pass through other countries first, which he is unable to easily obtain due to the fact that Sri Lanka does not have a consulate established in Venezuela that can help him.

And so, for the indeterminate future, the seemingly singular-named Sri Lankan man, Parameswaran, is stuck in limbo; Gate 22 of the terminal at Maiquetia airport, is his temporary home. 

In the words of a coincidentally apt song by Los Pericos:

Home sweet home, home sweet home,

Esta no es, no es mi casa no, [this is not my house, no]

Home sweet home, home sweet home,

Volver siempre, siempre es mi ilusión. [to return is always, always my illusion.]

- Home Sweet Home by Los Pericos (2004)

Tracy López is a bilingual writer living outside the Washington DC metro area. She is the founder of Latinaish.com.

 

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