News / Africa

Africa-bound Passengers Stranded at Brussels Airport

Some of the stranded passengers at Brussels International AirportSome of the stranded passengers at Brussels International Airport
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Some of the stranded passengers at Brussels International Airport
Some of the stranded passengers at Brussels International Airport
James Blears
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.
Butty interview with Dogba
Butty interview with Dogbai
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by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
December 28, 2013 3:03 AM
Just wanted to underline how we, the black people, are treated when we found ourselves stranded at any given European airports. Missing or delaying connecting flights do happen and it’s normal but passengers should be treated accordingly by the airport authority and airline agency. If we reasonably complain about the mistreatment we are unfairly accused of playing so called “racism card”.
According to this article, 142 African passengers coming from USA were supposed to have only 3 hours transit at Brussels’s, no need to have transit visa, right?. Again at their no fault they missed their connecting flights and they have to wait for another 36 or more hours for their next connections. Then all black passengers were herded into cold basement (call it Terminal B) where there is no water or food. Of course the passengers complain are reasonable. No one is playing here Racism Card!
It’s Christmas! European should be very compassionate for people in need at their soil. Please do not blame us playing the blame game!
Happy New Year to you all.


by: Derek from: Canada
December 27, 2013 6:28 PM
In my personal opinion citizens these passengers requiring a transit airport schengen visa ( type A visa) and did not have at the time of boardnig a flight, should have never been allowed to board the united flight bound for Brussels in the first place.
I don't get it why these passengers did not use american passport as for transiting Brussels and schengen area?
the whole scenario would of have been avoided altogether.!!
there is no question about it United airlines personnel grossly mishandled the whole press about boarding these passenger without necessary type A visa from chicago bound for Brussels.


by: Steven from: Belgium
December 27, 2013 3:45 AM
People seem to be very eager to play the racism card, but once again, the events didn't go entirely as portrayed in the article. The passengers were not in the basement, but in the terminal B transit area. A group of them choose to remain seated at the border control, where there are indeed limited seats available. They were however free to go to other areas in the transit area, where there are benches and sofas available as well as restaurants and cafes but choose not to do so. This was their choice, not something that was imposed on them. Meanwhile, immigration services were doing their best to get visas issued to everybody but as they needed to send a demand for every passenger separately to the government office, this obviously took some time.
Furthermore, I have spent many hours waiting in transit at various airports all over the world, as my flight was delayed or I missed a connection and didn't have the visa. I'm European, not African, yet, just like everybody else, wasn't allowed in because I didn't have a visa. This has nothing to do with racism. It's quite sad to play this card and a form of self victimisation which needs to stop.
And eventually everybody did get a visa and could spend the night in a hotel.


by: al from: Nai
December 26, 2013 8:17 PM
Sorry guys. The Airline couldn't even provide hotels for the stranded passengers? I hate travelling through Europe. They treat especially us africans like animals. Brussels Airport is now on my list of Airports to Avoid. My list included Zurich. I slept there for many hours, and was pulled aside by Security both to, and from. And by the way i was only transiting to go to see my folks in Africa. Getting pulled aside by Security when the mistake isn't yours (Swiss Embassy gave me thew wrong transit Visa) I have no idea what kind of Schengen transit Visa i needed, so you would think the Embassy would give me the right one after i had explained the situation to them.
I just want to travel so long as im not breaking any rules without being bothered, or mistreated.(Just treat me like any other passenger)


by: Mohamad from: Minneapolis, MN
December 26, 2013 5:52 PM
This actually makes to think twice before purchasing my ticket. I was thinking about purchasing a ticket to Nairobi that goes through Brussels airport. I guess i know why this airfare is cheaper than the others


by: Floe from: Canada
December 26, 2013 3:26 PM
If those Airlines cannot treat people accordingly, then they have to close down. The delay is their fault. They have to help their passengers obtain transit visas. I am sure they can pay for their accommodation and live decently.
Even if you give people vouchers, you do not abandon them in Basements for God sake. Where are the Airport authorities?


by: Average traveller from: DC
December 26, 2013 2:38 PM
Too easy to play the race card.

Misconnections happen due to weather or any other number of reasons. If you travel to Africa with a connection and your airline does NOT run the connection daily (typical for a number of destinations in Africa and even many destinations in Europe), then you should be prepared to misconnect and if you do, and you did not obtain a visa, you will be stuck in the international terminal until your airline's next scheduled flight.

FYI, the terminal has many many options for hot food, and United Airlines gave free vouchers to these passengers. What else do these traveler's expect, to be let into a country for which they did not obtain a visa? Ignorance of the situation that they put themselves in does not equal racism, and shame on those people who jump to play the race card.


by: Floe from: Canada
December 26, 2013 2:08 PM
This is so inhuman to treat people like animals; At Christmas time... I hope that the Human Rights watch will intervene and these airlines will pay for all the damages; Be it Physical, psychological...you name it..


by: Steven from: Belgium
December 26, 2013 4:24 AM
As someone who works at the airport and witnessed the events unfold, I can say there's some gross exaggeration from the passengers. They were not kept in a basement but were in the transit area of the B terminal, meaning they had access to all the f&b outlets available in the terminal. Also, united staff handed out vouchers to the pax so they could purchase food and drinks.
In my opinion United shouldn't have brought the passengers all the way to Brussels knowing very well they would miss their connecting flight and leaving them stranded, without the necessary schengen visa, in Belgium.


by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
December 26, 2013 2:30 AM
We know all too well what kind of treatment black people expect when they stranded at any European airports and lost their connecting flights. It's norm NOW!

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