Mumbai: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday offered to help a British couple facing hassles in taking their five-month-old surrogate daughter Lily to the UK as her British passport is not ready.
Apparently moved by the plight of the Britons, Chris Newman and wife Michele, of Epsom in Surrey, Sushma Swaraj gave a heart-warming tweet: “We will help (you) with extension for your visa. Pl give your details.”
The stranded Newman couple has been camping in a rented flat in Mumbai for four months, running from pillar to post to secure a passport for their daughter.
The problems were compounded by the fact that their Indian visas will expire on October 7 – leaving them with the only option of keeping Lily in an orphanage till her passport is issued.
The Newmans – in their 40s – 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.
In a petition on a social media site, Change.org, the Newmans said: “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.
“We have now run out of money to live on due to the weakened pound from the Brexit 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 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.
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”.