Mabrouq: Priority is to repatriate those facing 'direst of circumstances'

Government spokesperson Mabrouq Azeez (C) leads a press conference at the National Emergency Operations Center on April 4, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The Maldivian government, on Saturday, said the decision to hold its first repatriation flights to neighboring India and Sri Lanka was to rescue Maldivian nationals overseas facing the direst of circumstances.

The national airline, Maldivian is scheduled to hold its first repatriation flights to evacuate Maldivian nationals this week. Two flights are scheduled to fly out to Sri Lankan capital Colombo this Sunday, and a third is scheduled to fly out to the Indian city of Cochin on Monday.

 During a National Emergency Operations briefing on Saturday night, government spokesperson Mabrouq Azeez said the decision to hold the first repatriation flights to India and Sri Lanka was to rescue the Maldivian nationals who have been left stranded after travelling to the two countries for various purposes.

Both India and Sri Lanka are top destinations for hundreds of Maldivian nationals seeking medical care and other services.

“The embassies are working in collaboration with Maldivian. The priority is to transport home the people facing the direst of circumstances or those who lack any options. For example, to transport home a person who travelled overseas on a temporary visit to seek medical care. The circumstances such a person faces are far worse than the families who reside there,” said Mabrouq.

But this does not mean the Maldivian government is overlooking the difficult circumstances which the families residing overseas are facing either, said Mabrouq.

At the briefing, Moosa Waseem, the PR Manager of Island Aviation, which operates Maldivian, said the flight to Colombo were 50-seaters, while the flight to Colombo was a 200-seater.

“For the time being, 100 passengers will be carried home from Lanka tomorrow. And then, on April 6, 200 people will be carried home from Cochin. The number of people we can carry home is limited to our flight capacity,” said Moosa.

Moosa said the airline was also collaborating with the Foreign Ministry regarding holding repatriation flights to rescue Maldivian nationals in additional overseas locations.

Moosa said the airline would ensure protective measures were in place to protect its crew and passengers from the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic as it engages in the repatriation operations.

Maldivian will not take any action which violates Health Protection Agency (HPA)’s guidelines, he said.