New Delhi: Three Indian tourists carrying valid documents were illegally detained by the Italian police and were later freed only after intervention by the Indian embassy in Rome, a senior government official said on Thursday.
"Our mission in Rome has reported that they received a distress call on May 30 from one Miss Apoorva, who informed that her brother Akshit Goel along with two of his friends -- all Indian nationals -- had been illegally detained by the Italian police in the town of Ventimiglia in north Italy," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said at his weekly media briefing here.
"All the three Indian nationals were visiting Italy for tourism purposes and were carrying valid passports with valid Schengen visas," he said.
Following this, Swarup said, the embassy assured the family of all possible help and contacted the Italian police authorities in Ventimiglia and the country's interior ministry in Rome.
"The embassy was also able to establish contact with Akshit. He told our mission that he and his friends had been detained by the Italian police in the Ventimiglia railway station during a checking for illegal immigrants," the spokesperson said.
"Later, they were flown along with other detainees to Bari, a town almost 1,000 km away in the south of Italy," he said.
"Our embassy immediately contacted the police authorities of Ventimiglia and Bari as well as the ministry of interior affairs in Rome and apprised them of the problem."
Swarup said that after checking, it was found that the Italian authorities had made a mistake and they promised to release the three Indians.
"Finally, at around 9.30 p.m. on May 30, they were released from police custody," he said.
"The embassy coordinated with the authorities to ensure proper arrangements and safe transportation of the Indian nationals from Bari to premises of the Indian embassy in Rome."
Stating that the three reached the Indian mission on May 31 around 9 a.m., the spokesperson said that all three Indian nationals were lodged at the Indian embassy premises and provided adequate care.
"The embassy made arrangements for their onward journey to Nice in France on the same day where they are enrolled for an internship programme at a French university," Swarup said.
"Their families were informed of their safe release and the embassy assured them of all necessary assistance in getting them back safely to the university in France," he said, adding that the three reached the university on June 1.
Swarup also said that India "strongly raised the issue" with the Italian authorities and was in touch with them to ensure adequate steps were taken so that such unfortunate incidents involving Indian nationals did not recur in the future.