Oct 4, 2017
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. The embassy refused to offer financial help and contacted his family. His father and brother also could not help.
With both time and options running out, and the fear of a five-year jail term for visa overstay looming over his head, Kone again contacted CHRI. Among the work that CHRI does is helping in the repatriation of foreign national prisoners who have completed their sentences.
The concern was he could end up spending five years in prison just because he had no money to go home. It was a Catch-22 situation: if he were prosecuted and sentenced, with no means to earn money while inside prison, he would still be stuck in a foreign land.
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 Rs. 35,000 needed was raised in three days.
This enabled the purchase of his tickets and submission of his fine. 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.
Kone told CHRI, “I want to thank them (those who contributed money) for their generosity. 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.”
“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,” says Madhurima Dhanuka, Coordinator, Prison Reforms Programme, CHRI, who led the effort to get Kone home.
For more information, please contact:
Coordinator, Prison Reforms Programme
Tel: +91-11-4318 0200, 9331127001, 9748927001