Appeal by Indian family split apart by passport delay
An Indian family living in Northern Ireland face spending the holiday season spilt across two continents as delays in processing a passport for their baby rumbles into its ninth month.
Basil Kuriakose has not seen his wife nor their baby daughter since August, after they were forced to remain in India until the Home Office issued a passport for baby Riona.
Riona was born while her mother Jisha Kuriakose was visiting her sick parents in their home country.
Mr Kuriakose had to fly home to Londonderry with his two elder children - Ryan and Rita - in time for their return to school.
It left him with no choice but to leave Jisha and Riona behind until a passport for his new daughter was delivered.
But because Riona was born in India, getting a passport in her name has been more complicated than if she had been born in Derry like her brother and sister.
Mr Kuriakose said their forced separation is taking its toll on the entire family. He pleaded with the Home Office to reunite his family in time for Christmas.
He said: "This is having a very bad effect on my children who miss their mother and on me because I miss my wife and I haven't seen my baby since she was tiny.
"I have no family at all in Derry and I am relying on friends to help look after my children for a couple of hours each day until I finish my work.
"We cannot understand why we have been waiting this long for a passport, we have sent all the documentation the Home Office has asked us for but still no sign of Riona's passport. My wife received an email from the Home Office saying they are very sorry for the delay but no one can tell us how much longer we must wait."
The plight of the couple - who both work at Altnagelvin Hospital - has been raised by Foyle MP Mark Durkan. He said: "Clearly the Home Office have questions to answer as to why these delays have separated this family over two continents and I'll continue to advocate on their behalf till this matter is resolved."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Her Majesty's Passport Office will not issue a passport until all necessary checks have been satisfactorily completed.
"First time and overseas passport applications can take significantly longer if more information or documents are required.
"We remain in contact with Mr and Mr Kuriakose about their application."