As the world struggled to cope with the COVID19 crisis, countries around the world imposed border closures and travel restrictions, leaving limited options for those stranded abroad to return to their families.
Determined to bring back the Fijian nationals and committed to keeping Fiji “COVID contained”, at the heart of the Fijian’s government’s response and recovery plans is wellbeing and interests of its nationals.
The repatriation is led by the Incident Management Team (IMT) with great care and precision. The team comprises of Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Office of the Prime Minister, Department of Immigration, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Ministry of Defence and National Security, Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), Fiji Police Force (FPF), Fiji Navy, including other ministries and departments.
This challenging time has demonstrated the purpose with which, Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs executes its role to enable the safe return of 4000 Fijian nationals. The unwavering commitment of the Fijian Government in bringing back its nationals has been received with great appreciation. Numerous letters of acknowledgment, thank you notes, emails, calls, texts messages and interviews to share stories of gratitude from people from all walks of life, including Fiji’s development partners and Fijian nationals alike continues to pour in.
Mrs Viema Niunitoga, who is a statistician by profession, is one of the many Fijian nationals who has been reunited with her family through the repatriation program. Upon completion of the (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation), ITEC training program in May this year, Mrs Niunitoga was looking forward to returning home.
Despite the border closures and increasingly dire situation, the thought of being with her family, kept Mrs Niunitoga strong and hopeful. “I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to the Fijian Government for its tremendous support in bringing back the Fijian nationals home.
The Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its mission in New Delhi in India, reached out to us and supported us through this difficult time. The MFA Team overcame many challenges to ensure that we returned home safely. We cannot thank them enough for their kindness and assistance that has brought us this far”.
“During those stressful times, it is one’s own home where the mind and heart is. There is nothing greater than being in the comfort of your home, among your loved ones, in your country, as being the safest place on earth.
The repatriation program is very crucial for Fiji and the value of the work by the Fiji missions abroad is seen through such important initiatives. “For those that are still abroad, please get in touch with the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You don’t need to worry when you have the Fijian Government that stands for its people and they will definitely get you back home.
I am also grateful to the support given by my family, friends and the ITEC administration,” Mrs Niunitoga said. Expressing similar sentiments, Ms Shazia Usman is grateful to be with her family who were away in India for 5 months.
“My parents went for a much-needed medical treatment to India with my brother in early February this year. Their short trip turned into a long one due to COVID-19, and the lockdown of national borders and discontinuation of flights. It was quite challenging for them to be away from home for so long on many levels, while dealing with medical issues at the same time. “My brother was able to get in touch with the Fiji Mission in New Delhi. We were pleased to hear back and start engaging with them.
The Mission started a WhatsApp Group so everyone could be connected and my brother tells me that Fiji’s High Commissioner to India, Mr Yogesh Punja, was there to advise and assist Fijian nationals, often times calling everyone himself.”
“The team from the Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Suva were also very helpful. While everyone faced different challenges during this period, I am told they all felt grateful that they were part of a Fijian community in India.
Even the two-weeks quarantine process in Nadi was well organised and I was glad to finally be able to go pick my family up at the end of it,” Ms Usman elaborated. In commending the work of the Fijian Government to bring back the Fijian nationals back home, Ms Usman impressed upon the importance of repatriation program.
“We understand that Fiji is a smaller country than most and repatriation is not easy. We’re glad to have everyone back. No one must be left behind. I urge the Government to continue making arrangements for fellow Fijians still stuck in other countries. I urge everyone in Fiji to welcome Fijians back – this is our home. And lastly, to those still waiting to come back, please continue persevering as best as you can – you will be home soon,” Ms Shazia said.
Two repatriation flights since May this year has brought back Fijians who were stranded in India.