By Bejay Browne
TWENTY seven days after his arrest during an immigration swoop, the father of a baby girl, who was treated in Israel in a life saving operation after the minister of health stepped in, has been released.
John (Sanjeev) Dhull, 32, from India, was arrested in Paphos when he was volunteering for the cancer patients’ charity PASYKAF and after being held at Paphos police station for close to a month, he has finally been released.
An overjoyed Dhull told the Cyprus Mail that the lack of news about his case, and worrying about his family had left him a broken man.
He had refused to sign documents which would allow officials to send him back to India, instead saying he wanted to remain in Cyprus.
“I didn’t want to be separated from my family. I didn’t want to leave them alone here. I want to look after them,” he said.
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. However she was diagnosed with a heart defect which had gone undetected during pregnancy.
The baby was rushed to the Makarios Hospital and 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 were unable to obtain a state medical card as their visas had expired. After the Cyprus Mail reported on Zoe’s desperate situation, the health ministry stepped in and offered to pay the costs.
At just three weeks old Zoe underwent the operation on July 7 at the Schneider Children’s Medical Centre in Israel.
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.
Still shocked by his recent arrest Dhull said: “I couldn’t believe I was being arrested when five officers appeared from nowhere and handcuffed me. I explained everything, but it didn’t make any difference.”
Dhull said that he managed to find inner strength by reading the bible.
“Last week I was feeling very upset and nervous as I was waiting for an answer about my case; whether the authorities would separate me from my family and make me go back to India, or if I would be allowed to stay here and be with them. I couldn’t cope and felt so upset and broken. I asked for my bible and other material to read and it gave me strength,” he said.
Last Friday afternoon at around 4pm, one of the policemen told Dhull to collect his things as he was being released.
“I couldn’t believe it. I never want to go through that again. I’ve never been arrested or in prison before and it’s not an experience I want to repeat. But I also feel very lucky and am thankful to be back with my family”
He has been given leave to stay in the country for six months but must sign in every month. His wife Virginia Taguinay, 33, from the Philippines said she and Zoe were thrilled to have him home.