Do you remember the Tom Hanks movie “Terminal”? Ecuador’s version of a foreigner trapped in an international airport is playing out in the Jose Joaquin de Olmedo airport in Guayaquil.
A Lebanese man has been stuck in immigration purgatory there for 42 days after losing his passport and being returned from Spain to Ecuador, where his flight originated. Nizam Hussein Shalak, 56, who does not speak Spanish, is the man in the middle of the new drama.
“It is a case of inadmissibility because he has no documents,” a spokesman for Ecuador’s foreign ministry said Monday. “The only legal body in the northern region of South American that can issue a travel document to Mr. Shalak is the Lebanese consulate in Bogota, Colombia and they have not responded to our requests.”
The spokesman added that Ecuador is also working with officials in Lebanon in hopes of replacing Shalak’s passport so he can return home.
The situation bears a striking resemblance to the Iranian refugee who lived in a Paris airport from 1988 to 2006, who was played by Tom Hanks in the 2004 movie “Terminal.”
Shalak visited Guayaquil in April and was on his way home to Lebanon when he was detained in Spain because he had no passport. He explained to authorities that he had also lost his wallet, which contained his credit cards. Because his flight began in Ecuador, he was sent back to Guayaquil.
“He is not legally in the country,” the foreign ministry spokesman said. “The international terminal is a kind of ‘no man’s land,’”