St Albans woman trapped in India

Rachael Tomkins, second back right, who is stuck in India after a visa glitch, has been teaching at

Rachael Tomkins, second back right, who is stuck in India after a visa glitch, has been teaching at a girls' orphanage in the country - Credit: Photo supplied

A visa blunder has left an ill woman alone and trapped nearly 8,000 miles from home, with her distraught mother desperately trying to get her daughter safely back to St Albans.

Rachael Tomkins, 34, gave up her job as a senior area youth worker to become a voluntary missionary teacher at a girls’ orphanage in India last year.

She paid £400 for an employment visa through the Indian embassy in London before starting work at the orphanage in Fort Kochi, in the state of Kerala, on August 5.

Rachael was due to arrive home on February 6, but brought her flight forward to January 23 as she was feeling unwell.

But upon reaching the airport at Mumbai, immigration officials took her to one side and refused to let her board the plane home.

They told Rachael she could not leave as her visa had not been officially registered after her arrival last year.

Her mum, Teresa Ryan, of the Camp area of the city, said Rachael was so shocked and upset that she collapsed in front of the officers.

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Teresa blames the charity supplying volunteers to the orphanage for the visa blunder, as despite telling Rachael they had registered her arrival within the required 14 days, that was not the case.

She has launched an urgent bid for her daughter’s return home, contacting St Albans MP Anne Main and the Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire.

While praising Anne for her attempts to help Rachael, Teresa said the British Consulate in India “hasn’t helped”.

Teresa has also set up a Facebook page, “Help me get my daughter Rachael home”, which has attracted a range of responses including one man suggesting, “give a senior immigration officer a ‘gift’, she’ll be out on the next flight”.

Teresa said that Rachael decided to work in India as “she is amazing with kids, and they just love her. She wanted to go there as there are a lot of orphaned girls.

“Rachael went to the Indian embassy and got a visa, which has still got six months on it. The charity told us they registered the visa on August 7, but it hadn’t.”

Teresa said she was distraught as her daughter was “completely alone, thousands of miles from home”.

Although Rachael has not been detained by immigration officials, she is unable to leave India until the blunder is sorted out.

Teresa has applied for an emergency passport from the Irish Consulate to fly to India and help Rachael, who is still unwell.

Anne Main said: “This is a very distressing time for Rachael and her family in St Albans.

“My office has been working with the family and liaising with the Foreign Office, the charity and the deputy high commissioners’ office in India to try to expedite this case and bring Rachael home quickly.”