Cyprus Mail

Baby Zoe’s father still behind bars, three weeks on

Baby Zoe with her parents

By Bejay Browne

THE father of a baby girl, who was treated in Israel in a life saving operation after the minister of health stepped in, is still behind bars since his arrest during an immigration swoop 20 days ago.

John (Sanjeev) Dhull, 32, from India, was arrested in Paphos when he was volunteering for the cancer patients’ charity PASYKAF and is still being held at Paphos police station.

Distraught wife Virginia Taguinay, 33, from the Philippines, is appealing to the authorities to release him before their daughter’s next scheduled appointment at Nicosia general hospital at 9.15am on Monday.

“I have been told by the ministry of the interior that they have more than one hundred cases to go thorough and that it will take time. I’m trying to be patient, but I hope my husband will be released in time for Zoe’s appointment.”

Although the parents’ visas have expired, they say they had been told by the authorities that they could remain in Cyprus at least until baby Zoe’s treatment was completed.

Zoe Dhull was born at Paphos general hospital on June 25 last year. She was a healthy three kilos and the family planned to leave Cyprus shortly after her birth. Two days later she experienced severe breathing complications caused by a heart defect which had gone undetected during pregnancy.

The baby was rushed to the Makarios hospital in Nicosia. Her parents had less than two weeks to raise the €15,000 needed to pay for a vital cardiac catheterisation in Israel, as the operation could not be done in Cyprus. The couple had no private medical insurance and was unable to obtain a state medical card, which would have covered the medical expenses, as their visas had expired.

Recently, the family turned for help to Caritas, an agency that provides legal and social advice, counseling and assistance through volunteers and other non-governmental organisations.

Taguinay said she was shocked to find out that information contained in both her and her husband’s immigration files was incorrect and incomplete.

“It said that my husband broke an agreement and didn’t hand in his passport after he arrived back from Israel with Zoe. This isn’t true; he handed it in at Nicosia. It also said that we refused to co-operate by giving a date of when we were leaving Cyprus. This isn’t true either, when the migration department called us after Zoe’s operation, we said that we couldn’t give an exact date because Zoe was still receiving treatment and that she was in and out of hospital with an infection.”

Taguinay said that the couple’s legal representative has forwarded a letter to the interior ministry disputing these points along with a letter from Taguinay requesting the couple be allowed to remain in Cyprus for a further twelve months until Zoe’s health stabilises.

When the Cyprus Mail reported on Zoe’s desperate situation on its front page last year, the health ministry stepped in and offered to pay the costs of the heart operation.

At just three weeks old Zoe underwent the operation on July 7 at the Schneider Children’s Medical Centre in Israel.

The family had hoped that the ministry of health would grant Zoe a medical card to cover other costs of almost €7,000.

Her mother said that although Zoe is now doing well, she may have to undergo a further procedure to keep a valve to her heart open. The one-year-old still has to visit the Makarios hospital in Nicosia periodically.

A spokesperson for the ministry of health confirmed that Dhull’s files had been sent to the secretary general of the migration department.

“We are waiting for her reply; we will contact her again today,” the spokesperson said yesterday.

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