A WESTHOUGHTON couple who travelled to India to meet their newborn surrogate children for the first time have returned home — five months after the twins were born.
Kiran and Bina Salvi said they were made to feel like criminals by the UK passport authority because of long delays processing their applications and a “farcical” lack of communication about their progress.
The situation arose during large-scale processing problems at the UK passport office this summer.
The couple, who arrived home with babies Jai and Leela at the end of July, were forced to live in a hotel room in the Indian region of Anand for months and missed their flights home while waiting for the children’s passports to arrive.
Mr and Mrs Salvi have been trying to have children for the past 12 years and chose to use a surrogacy clinic in India after exhausting all other options.
The Salvis believe they have had to pay about £3,000 in extra costs for new flights, accommodation and phone calls during their extended stay in India.
New dad Mr Salvi, aged 44, said: “We are just so glad to be back. It has made such a difference for us to be here with the babies compared to being stuck in a hot room for all that time.”
The first passport applications were sent on April 14 and were initially returned as more information was required.
After a delay the couple were told they had been processed, paid for and sent to Liverpool by June 6, but then said they heard nothing.
After growing more frustrated by a lack of contact, Mr Salvi decided to involve his local MP, Julie Hilling, who brought the issue up in the House of Commons.
Mr Salvi said: “We were over the moon when Julie got involved — Bina was in tears because it felt great that someone was finally taking us seriously.
“We felt like we had been treated like criminals, because they weren’t communicating with us — it was like they were assuming we were doing something fraudulent, it was farcical.”
In mid-June Mr Salvi said he was contacted by the Passport Office which said it had been trying to contact him by email since May.
A spokesman for HM Passport Office said: “We contacted Mr and Mrs Salvi by email and telephone on a number of occasions to obtain further information to assist their application and did not receive a satisfactory response for several weeks.”
Mr Salvi said: “I never got any email from them and my address was clearly stated all over the application.”
Mr Salvi said it was another six weeks before the passports arrived and the Salvis could board a new flight with their babies.
He said: “That moment, when we got through passport control and sat on the plane was when we felt like the weight lifted — there were definitely tears.The babies are doing really well, Leela is surprisingly independent whereas Jai is a bit of a mummy’s boy.”
After returning home, Mr Salvi, an IT specialist and accountant Mrs Salvi, aged 39, were able to thank the friends, family and neighbours who supported them while they were in India as well as Ms Hilling and her team.
He said: “Everyone was fantastic, but we especially need to thank Julie and her team because without them, I believe we would still be stuck in India.”
Ms Hilling said she cannot wait to meet the babies, adding: “It’s wonderful news that the Salvis are back home where they belong.
“It’s so sad that they were caught up in the dreadful chaos created at the Passport Service and I will be continuing to press the government to sort out the problems.”
A Passport Office spokesman said the new passports were delivered within 11 weeks of the passport office receiving the applications in the UK, which she said was, “well within the 16-week guidelines for a first time child application from India”.
The statement added: “The welfare of children is paramount in surrogacy cases and a lot of checks have to be completed before passports can be issued.”
Mr Salvi said that when the couple made their plans the guidelines had stated the passports would take eight weeks, but that they changed while they were away.
He said: “If that is now the process then fair enough — I just don’t understand why they couldn’t communicate that with us. That is what we found disgraceful.”