The closure of borders during the Covid-19 pandemic has made travel near impossible. We have all heard complaints and pleas for authorities to help bring back Malaysians from overseas during this period.
I must congratulate the foreign ministry on their successful missions to bring our citizens back.
Yesterday, I received messages on Twitter and WhatsApp from Malaysian students currently in the United Kingdom. Most of the messages were from medical colleagues furthering their education.
One message read, “Do you know of any Malaysians in the UK who are keen to go back at the end of May”. When enquired, I found out the following.
Most Malaysian students in the UK have valid student visas up to May 31, 2020. Some who renewed in February were given an extension only up to May.
The UK home office has refused to renew student visas beyond May. These students are expected to leave the UK before their visas expire (some said that they might be given a leeway of a few days, thereafter, they will face action for overstaying).
But they are not able to get any flight home. There are no flights to Malaysia from London. They have the following options:
Fly to Istanbul, then to Malaysia. However Turkey recently blocked entries from the UK (including connecting flights).
Fly to Qatar, wait between 24 and 48 hours to get a connecting flight to Malaysia.
Fly to Singapore, but entry here has been blocked too.
Some students and their families have attempted to contact the Malaysian high commission in London to seek help. They were informed that the high commission had received 1,500 requests from students (and counting) to return home within the next two months.
Students will be sitting for their exams soon, between May 25 and 29, and they are distracted by this problem. Those fortunate enough to have their families with them will have some form of relief as they can focus on studying.
I can only imagine those without families who might be suffering emotionally, especially on what will happen to them after May 31.
There is a small group of Malaysians trying to compile details of those who want to return by the end of the month. In the last 24 hours, they have received confirmations from 30 individuals.
I hope our foreign minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, will look into this and get our citizens back safely. It is only fair that they get a direct flight to Malaysia and come back to begin their compulsory two-week quarantine.
Dr Arvinder Singh HS is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.