Afghan SIV recipient family wrongly denied boarding by Lufthansa

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Nov 13, 2018
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I am writing on behalf of an Afghan national acquaintance, Mr. Amiri, who served alongside the USAF in Afghanistan until 2015. One night in 2015 he and his family were violently threatened in their home by the local Taliban; they fled the country to save their own lives the following day. During their flight, he was separated from his wife and children: while he ended up in Germany, his wife and children ultimately made it only to Turkey. It was from these locations that they applied for Special Immigrant Visas (https://travel.state.gov/content/tr...iv-iraqi-afghan-translators-interpreters.html) to come to safety and reunion in the United States.

Earlier this year, Mr. Amiri was granted his SIV and flew from Germany to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where, as an SIV holder, he is granted permanent resident status. His family received their SIVs a bit later on, and Mr. Amiri used all of the money he had saved to purchase, on vayama, tickets for his to fly and join him. The travel was to be Nov 6, on an itinerary IST-FRA-SEA entirely on Lufthansa.

Upon their arrival at the airport in Istanbul, Mr. Amiri's family was denied boarding by the Lufthansa airport agents. As the family do not speak Turkish fluently, it is a bit unclear what the exact reasoning for the boarding denial is, but it appears from all we can tell that the family was denied because they did not have German transit visas on their Afghan passports. This was an incorrect boarding denial: as holders of a valid US entry visa, which was stamped on their passports, the family does not need to obtain visas to transit Germany as long as they remain within the secure area. With a scheduled layover of under 3 hours, the family of course had no plans to exit the secure area.

Since November 6, the family and several other determined advocates have made multiple contacts with Lufthansa customer service, each time receiving bits and pieces of answers that they would either a) get a partial refund, b) get a smaller partial refund, or c) had no proof that the family had even come to the airport and therefore get no refund at all. Obviously, as the boarding denial was inappropriate, none of these options is acceptable. Recently one phone CSR admitted that there is a note in "line 74" of the case documentation stating that the family did in fact arrive and was denied boarding. The other details of this note were not revealed.

Mr. Amiri's wife and children are now squatting in Istanbul and awaiting a quick resolution. Mr. Amiri has no money to purchase a new set of tickets, nor should he be forced to. This family that has been separated for over 3 years and lost all of their possessions back home remains separated, this time not because of war or refugee status, but because of Lufthansa bureaucracy.

What this family deserves, of course, is an immediate rebooking. It appears at this time that we need assistance in finding someone at Lufthansa that can provide it.
 
Nov 13, 2018
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#2
I will note that the family is discouraged enough by their moment of departure turning into a sad drive away from the airport that they will also accept a full refund so that they can rebook on Turkish airlines direct to the US and bypass the possibility that they will be crushingly rejected at the airport another time.
 
Nov 13, 2018
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#5
The family is in Turkey and doesn't speak Turkish. Lufthansa customer service there is happily wielding this against them.

Sad that this is what it's come to.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
What a sad situation. It sounds as if the check in staff was unfamiliar with SIV visas.

Can you write a letter to Lufthansa and have both you and Mr. Amiri sign it and explain that although Mr. Amiri was a translator his written English is somewhat more awkward and this is why you are writing and are involved in the process.

Do the wife and children speak any other languages other than Dari/Pashto?

How far in the check in process did they get. You will need to have as much information as possible— such as not allowed to check in, was at the airport 3 hours before flight, etc.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#9
The wife and kids only speak dari and pashto. They aren't sure how far into the check-in process they got.
This must be so frustrating; Can Mr. Amiri get some details from them? I do believe that a letter to the Lufthansa executives politely explaining the issue may hopefully yield a credit for the flights that can be used to get the remaining member of the family to the US.
 
Feb 3, 2017
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#10
A long shot, I am sure, but as he is now a resident in the U.S. can he get in touch with the legislative representative who represents his district (wherever he is in the Pacific Northwest) in Congress. I know this seems very long shot(ish) but congressional members very often will intervene in certain situations where other avenues have failed.

Given the country he is from, our involvement, etc - who knows, someone in one of the representatives' offices may decide to look into this for him.

I wish him the best of luck -
 
Nov 13, 2018
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#11
I also forgot to mention that the family started some sort of 30 day clock to leave the country when they got local police permission to exit (because of course that's a thing.) So they have until Dec 6th to get out of Turkey. Dunno what the consequences are if they don't.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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I also forgot to mention that the family started some sort of 30 day clock to leave the country when they got local police permission to exit (because of course that's a thing.) So they have until Dec 6th to get out of Turkey. Dunno what the consequences are if they don't.
I think you need to start with the Lufthansa contacts -- not the general customer service people. Weihlac has the link abovein post #3 and Neil has posted a link on how to develop a paper trail in post #6.

I am not surprised there is an administrative tracking of refugees in Turkey.

If you want to post a draft of a letter suggestions can be made.

I would not bother with LH social media, as they do not have access to the reservation system and seem to refer people to the general customer sevice.
 
Nov 13, 2018
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#13
I have already sent emails to the administrators in the links. I got an "I'm on vacation" email from one. The other has not responded.
 

jsn55

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Dec 26, 2014
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#15
I am so saddened by your story. My colleagues have many good ideas and I hope that the family is successful boarding and arriving in Seattle. Can Mr Amiri contact a US presence in Turkey ... to get a referral to a local interpreter who might be able to help for instance? Often face-to-face communication is the most efficient and successful. Many good wishes and luck to the Amiri's and I hope to hear good news from you when they're on that airplane.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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#18
I am writing on behalf of an Afghan national acquaintance, Mr. Amiri, who served alongside the USAF in Afghanistan until 2015. One night in 2015 he and his family were violently threatened in their home by the local Taliban; they fled the country to save their own lives the following day. During their flight, he was separated from his wife and children: while he ended up in Germany, his wife and children ultimately made it only to Turkey. It was from these locations that they applied for Special Immigrant Visas (https://travel.state.gov/content/tr...iv-iraqi-afghan-translators-interpreters.html) to come to safety and reunion in the United States.

Earlier this year, Mr. Amiri was granted his SIV and flew from Germany to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where, as an SIV holder, he is granted permanent resident status. His family received their SIVs a bit later on, and Mr. Amiri used all of the money he had saved to purchase, on vayama, tickets for his to fly and join him. The travel was to be Nov 6, on an itinerary IST-FRA-SEA entirely on Lufthansa.

Upon their arrival at the airport in Istanbul, Mr. Amiri's family was denied boarding by the Lufthansa airport agents. As the family do not speak Turkish fluently, it is a bit unclear what the exact reasoning for the boarding denial is, but it appears from all we can tell that the family was denied because they did not have German transit visas on their Afghan passports. This was an incorrect boarding denial: as holders of a valid US entry visa, which was stamped on their passports, the family does not need to obtain visas to transit Germany as long as they remain within the secure area. With a scheduled layover of under 3 hours, the family of course had no plans to exit the secure area.

Since November 6, the family and several other determined advocates have made multiple contacts with Lufthansa customer service, each time receiving bits and pieces of answers that they would either a) get a partial refund, b) get a smaller partial refund, or c) had no proof that the family had even come to the airport and therefore get no refund at all. Obviously, as the boarding denial was inappropriate, none of these options is acceptable. Recently one phone CSR admitted that there is a note in "line 74" of the case documentation stating that the family did in fact arrive and was denied boarding. The other details of this note were not revealed.

Mr. Amiri's wife and children are now squatting in Istanbul and awaiting a quick resolution. Mr. Amiri has no money to purchase a new set of tickets, nor should he be forced to. This family that has been separated for over 3 years and lost all of their possessions back home remains separated, this time not because of war or refugee status, but because of Lufthansa bureaucracy.

What this family deserves, of course, is an immediate rebooking. It appears at this time that we need assistance in finding someone at Lufthansa that can provide it.
Has the family reached out to the US consulate in Istanbul?
That is worth a try.
 
Nov 15, 2018
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#19
What a horrible situation! I registered specifically to respond to this, and I am certainly not an expert on travel (everything I know I have learned from reading this site!).
However, I don't think this is a travel question per se, especially when it involves refugees, the Taliban, and the potential of death if this does not get resolved by December 6th and they get sent back. Violence and potential death, in my humble opinion, elevates this above waiting for Lufthansa's customer service to do the right thing.
This needs to be taken to the State Department, his local Congressperson, the US Consulate in Turkey, anyone and everyone that will listen to get this resolved and his poor family on a flight over here. I also would not be hesitant to contact the local news media and start a GoFundMe and worry about the refund later, there's too high of stakes and too short of a deadline in this matter. ..