More than 140 passengers from five African countries have been stranded at Brussels International Airport since early Thursday.
They were to have departed late Tuesday from Chicago aboard a United Airlines plane with a planned three-hour stop in Brussels.
But, their Chicago flight was delayed and they missed their connecting flight on Brussels Airlines. The carrier told them the next available flight is Friday.
United told VOA “some passengers did miss their connections on other airlines to their final destinations, and our team in Brussels is doing everything it can to help the passengers make alternate accommodations as soon as possible.”
Daniel Dogba, a Liberian who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and one of the stranded passengers, said all 142 Africans have been staying in a cold basement of the airport for hours without food and water.
“We departed the United States from Chicago, via United Flight 972, with the intention of transiting in Brussels. Now, we got here today (Thursday) and the airport here did not know we were coming or what was going on. Mind you, there has been no official statement from United as to when we’re departing here. We’ve been here over 11 hours, no food, no water, and in the very cold basement,” he said.
Dogba said without visas the passengers could not leave the basement to seek hotel accommodations on their own. He also said airlines officials were in possession of their passports.
Glory Tambe, a Cameroonian, said she and her baby became sick from the conditions in the airport basement.
“I had a migraine and my neck and feet were hurting because we’ve been standing, and we didn’t have a place to sit down. We didn’t have no food to eat, no water and the baby was crying. I tried to buy something for her to eat, but she couldn’t even eat it because it was so hot, and she had wounds all over her mouth because we don’t have water,” Tambe said.
Another woman from Sierra Leone who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said she was returning to Sierra Leone with her four year-old son for the first time in 12 years because her father passed away.
She said her son became sick because the lack of food and water, coupled with cold weather, became stressful for her son.
“I feel that they are treating us like refugees. I feel that this is racist. I feel that they think we don’t know anything, and I’m a young generation and I know my rights, and I want to fight this to the end. I feel they are treating us [like this] because we are Africans, and this is wrong. We paid them money and we should receive what we [paid for],” she said.
She said the conditions reminded her of the days of Sierra Leone’s civil war when there was no regard for human beings.
Dogba said one of the sad things to see was an elderly woman who was traveling in a wheelchair.