Inner Maldives working to charter flight to carry Maldivians stranded in Sri Lanka

A SriLankan Airlines flight. (File Photo/SriLankan Airlines)

Inner Maldives, the agent in Maldives for SriLankan Airlines, is working on chartering a flight to carry home the Maldivian nationals stranded in neighboring Sri Lanka due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Sri Lanka, in a bid to curb spiraling virus cases, imposed a ban on inbound international flights last week. And Maldives tightened its own travel restrictions and imposed a ban on arrivals from Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Managing Director of Inner Maldives, Mohamed Firaq told Sun on Tuesday that many Maldivian nationals in Sri Lanka wished to return to Maldives, and that the agency was therefore working on chartering a flight.

“We are engaged in discussions with both governments. We will hold the flight as soon as we receive permission,” said Firaq.

Meanwhile, the Maldivian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Umar Abdul Razzaq told Sun that no decision regarding arranging transport for Maldivian nationals in Sri Lanka had been made at government-level, and to discuss such arrangements with airlines.

During a press conference at the National Emergency Operations Center on Monday, government spokesperson Mabrouq Azeez said the government’s policy was to arrange transport for Maldivian nationals overseas to return home to Maldives only if the virus situation in the country where they were was deemed to be of too much of a risk to their health and wellbeing.

The government otherwise advises Maldivian nationals not to travel back, and to stay home, said Mabrouq.

Sri Lanka hosts a population of some 15,000 Maldivian nationals. The country has reported 15 new cases this Tuesday, increasing its confirmed virus cases to 97.