Five days after offering help to a stranded British couple in Mumbai, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked the UK government when they would issue the passport for their infant daughter of about five-months.
In the meantime, she assured that the Indian government would extend the visas of Chris Newman and his wife Michele, which are due to expire on October 7 as they ran from pillar to post for getting a passport for their daughter Lily.
“When will Britain give Lily a passport? We are prepared to extend parents’ visa till then,” Sushma said in a tweet on Sunday.
The development came four days after the Newmans’ plight was first highlighted in the Indian media by IANS (September 14), about the Britons who are living in a small rented flat in Mumbai and fast running out of resources.
They faced hassles in taking their surrogate daughter Lily to the UK as her British passport was not yet ready.
Apparently moved by the plight of the Newmans of Epsom in Surrey, Sushma on September 14 gave a heart-warming tweet: “We will help (you) with extension for your visa. Pl(ease) give your details.”
The problems were compounded by the fact that the Newmans’ Indian visas would expire on October 7 – leaving them with the only option of keeping Lily in an orphanage till her passport was issued.
However, after the latest assurance tweeted by Sushma – to extend their visas till Britain issues Lily’s passport – would prove to be a big relief for the Newmans, who are now in their 40s.
In fact, they had applied on June 3 for a British passport for Lily who was born in May. But processing delays with the international checks at the UK Passport Office has effectively left them stuck in India.
Frustrated by the delays, they put up a petition a few weeks back, on social media site, Change.org saying: “We are proud new parents to our amazing daughter Lily, who was born in Mumbai through surrogacy in May 2016. We travelled to Mumbai for Lily’s birth and to bring her home to Epsom in Surrey.”
“However, we have been left stranded because of delays due to UK Passport Office (HMPO) checks and may have to leave our three-and-a-half-month-old daughter with a complete stranger as we are forced to leave by the Indian government,” the Newmans expressed their apprehensions.
Living in a one-bedroom flat in Mumbai, they described how they were unable to venture out with Lily because of the monsoon rains or extreme heat coupled with poor local surroundings.
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“We have now run out of money to live on due to the weakened pound from the Brexit (Britain voting to exit the European Union) vote and having to keep up our mortgage payments on our UK home,” they said.
They said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had twice asked them to be prepared to “leave Lily” in India.
“Lily is now starting to laugh and giggle like all babies her age, but little does she know that her safe, secure and nurtured world she lives in with her mum and dad could be turned upside down in less than 27 days,” they said.
After the British media highlighted the Newmans’ plight, Sushma Swaraj defended India’s Surrogacy (Regular) Bill, 2016 in a series of sharp tweets.
“…Will the advocates of commercial surrogacy suggest a solution and help this baby? Commercial surrogacy is banned in Britain… Will British government give a British passport to this surrogate baby? …Should orphanage be the destiny of a surrogate baby?” the minister asked.
But on a more humane note, she advised the Newmans to acquire a British passport for their child as “Orphanage is not an option for baby Lily”.