WYD 2013: KLM Airlines denies 2 days “Hold-up” discrimination and boasts Philippine tribe stranded in Malaysian Airport arrived Brazil

World Youth Day 2013: Indigenous Filipino Youth Delegate Earlier Denied Boarding by KLM Airlines Due to Alleged Discrimination Finally Arrives in Brazil

Indigenous Philippine Youth Delegate Denied Boarding by KLM Airlines Finally Arrives in Brazil

Arjean Marie Belco, the indigenous Philippine woman who was earlier denied by KLM Airlines to board her flight from Malaysia to Brazil, has finally landed in Rio de Janeiro. Goodxorg, the nonprofit group that organized and sponsored Ms Belco's trip in time for the World Youth Day 2013 festivities, believed its scholar was denied her "right to travel" all because she did not fit KLM's idea of a traveler, thus essentially "a case of discrimination."

Despite encountering several difficulties in the beginning of her trip, not to mention getting delayed by two days, the Talaandig lass from Bukidnon, Mindanao Island has finally arrived in Pope Francis' home continent.

On Saturday, 18-year-old Ms. Arjean Belco left Manila to Kuala Lumpur for the first leg of her first ever international travel. From there, she was to board a connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via Amsterdam. At the KLM check-in counter, she was refused boarding.

Ms. Belco called Goodxorg, with offices in Manila, long distance to advise her fate at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

According to Ms Belco, based from an assessment made by a certain Mr. Shawa, a KLM employee in Malaysia, she was denied entry because she appeared "not ready to travel." It is not clear if the supposed assessment was part of the airline's regular and mandated routine checks over a paid traveler.

Even if the BS Education student handed him her folder full of documentation, proving the authenticity of her person and her travel, Mr. Shawa continued to barrage her with questions - "Why is your passport so new?" "Your ticket is too cheap" "Your ticket was just purchased yesterday" "Why flying through Malaysia if there are flights from the Philippines?" and "How much money you have?"

Mr. Shawa allegedly continued on to say "that he was doubtful" about her trip, according to Ms Belco.

Goodxorg explained in its Facebook page that along with its partner Cartwheel Foundation.org., they pooled donations from all over the world just to be able to send Ms Belco to attend the Catholic event in Brazil in July.

And "for the record, before purchasing the ticket we called KLM reservations and reconfirmed that Philippine National don't need a transit visa in the Netherlands (waiting at the boarding area for 5 hours for her next flight) and that Philippine Citizens need no visa for Brazil for up to 90 days," Goodxorg further said.

According to the Netherlands Web site, airport transit visas are required under the following conditions:

Nationals of the following countries need an airport transit visa to change aircraft at an airport in a Schengen country: 

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka

Countries whose citizens are required by the Netherlands to possess an airport transit visa when they are in the international transit area of airports in Dutch territory are from the following countries: 

  • Angola 
  • Gambia 
  • Guinea 
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Nepal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • South Sudan

"Arjean was denied her right to travel. This could also be perceived as a possible case of discrimination based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status," Goodxorg said in its post.

It is not clear if Goodxorg will pursue formal and legal charges against KLM and Mr. Shawa.

KLM denies discriminating vs. World Youth Day delegate from Talaandig tribe

The European airline whose staff  barred an 18-year old indigenous Philippine ethnic member from taking a connecting flight to Brazil to attend the World Youth Day (WYD) said it does not discriminate passengers—even if one of its employees reportedly assessed the delegate as being "not ready for travel" despite having all the necessary documents.

On its Twitter account, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said it "does not discriminate and accepts passengers with valid travel documents."

The company has been repeatedly posting the statement since Wednesday in response to Twitter users if it is part of the company's policy to discriminate against Philippine passengers.

KLM has been the subject of criticism on social networking sites after news broke that its staff in Kuala Lumpur International Airport prevented Arjean Marie Belco from boarding her connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro on July 20.

Belco, a WYD delegate from Bukidnon's Talaandig tribe, was supposedly told by KLM employees that she was "not ready to travel" even if she passed through Malaysian immigration smoothly and had a folder with full documentation proving her trip to Brazil.

Arjean was stranded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 2 days before GoodXorg, a non-profit group, was able to rebook her flight to Brazil.

In a statement on Thursday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that Belco arrived in Brazil on Tuesday on board KLM Flight No. KL 705.

The DFA said that Arjean was met by Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Eva Betita and other members of the Philippine consulate in Brazil upon her arrival at the Galeão International Airport in Rio de Janeiro.

With the help of WYD organizers, the Philippine Embassy in Brazil has set up a secretariat in Rio de Janeiro to provide assistance to Pinoy pilgrims attending WYD 2013. Delegates from São Paulo and nearby cities can also seek consular assistance from the embassy for the duration of the program, DFA said.

with reports from International Business Times,  &  GMA News

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