At least 60 Kerala pilgrims who went to the Vatican to attend the canonisation of two Indian priests on November 23 have reportedly gone missing, sparking speculation that they have gone underground in search of jobs, sources said on Tuesday.
Six travel agencies took at least 10,000 people from India to witness the grand ceremony apart from the nearly 300 guests officially invited.
About 100 pilgrims were initially reported missing, but the travel firms managed to track several of them down and persuaded them to return. A majority of those who have disappeared are women, sources said.
The agencies said the missing persons’ families failed to provide any information on the matter.
“We took a 16-member contingent and five people went missing. We are planning to approach the police and embassy,” a representative of Mumbai-based Seagull Tours and Travels said.
Almost all the travellers were on a ten-day visit visa that expired on November 30. “Other than media reports we haven’t got any complaint in this regard,” said Kochi DCP Nishanthini.
Travel agents say those who abscond often resurface after about two years, when in some countries like the US such people are provided trafficking visas that are validated later.
“Acts like this bring much disrepute to the country. In future, genuine visitors to Italy and other European countries will face problems,” said a tour operator.
Kerala’s Chavara Cultural Centre that took a 248-member team, however, said all its travellers returned home without any hassles. Details of the missing people will be known once tour operators file a complaint.