Kolkata, Oct 4 : A unique crowd funding initiative enabled a 22-year-old footballer from the Ivory Coast to return home.
Yinkita Kone was stranded for three years in India, unable to buy a ticket to return to his native land.
Kone came to India in 2015, eager to earn a living from football but soon realised that he was given false hope by recruiters and did not have a permanent contract with any major club in Kolkata.
He had no money and could neither afford a ticket home nor apply for extension of his visa.
Left with no choice, he continued to play football in Kolkata for two years to sustain himself until he was apprehended by officials for visa overstay in June 2017.
He was imposed Rs 27,500 penalty and asked to leave the country immediately or serve prison time. Kone, however, had only Rs 25,000 of the Rs 60,000 required to pay for both his fine and his tickets.
In need of help, he was put in touch with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), which contacted the Ivory Coast embassy in New Delhi and sought assistance in the matter, but nothing came of it.
With both time and options running out, and the fear of a five-year jail term for visa overstay looming over his head, CHRI started a crowd funding campaign with help of an online crowd funding platform ‘Milaap’.
Over 20 people from different walks of life, law graduates, IT professionals, scientists, hoteliers and academicians contributed and the Rs 35,000 needed was raised in three days, a CHRI release said.
After completing all formalities, Kone finally left for home on September 29, 2017.
He is now safely home, with his family, enjoying the company of his niece and nephew.
“I know many more like me are stranded in a foreign country and don’t get a chance to return back. That’s why I will never forget this act,” Kone said.
“It is a tragedy that people can be stranded, prosecuted and punished in a foreign land only because they did not have money. Embassies should come out in support of their nationals in their time of need,” said Madhurima Dhanuka, Coordinator, Prison Reforms Programme, CHRI.