A Fijian national, Vineet Prasad is grateful to be back with his family in Fiji, after being stranded in Bulgaria amidst the closure of borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Prasad is one of many Fijians who have been assisted by the Fijian Government through repatriation flights to bring our nationals home. In January this year, Mr Prasad travelled to Bulgaria under the ERASMUS+ international exchange program to conduct research for his Masters’ thesis. Unfortunately, his plans to return home in May were disrupted when the borders closed.
Thankfully, Mr Prasad was able to board a repatriation flight from New Zealand to Fiji on May 19th, 2020. He said this was made possible through the timely support provided by the Fijian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) that ultimately assisted him to make informed decision on his travel plans.
“I was promptly assisted by the Fijian Ministry of Foreign Affairs with my travel plan from Sofia to New Zealand and ultimately leading to boarding the repatriation flight home,” Mr Prasad said. He was advised by the Ministry on the arrangements to travel to New Zealand and from here he boarded the repatriation flight to Fiji.
“Had I not received guidance from MFA, I would have been in a difficult situation that would have required me to catch a flight back to Sofia, with uncertainties as to when I would have been able to leave Sofia, and I could have been stranded again for an undetermined period of time,”
Mr Prasad said. It was through the assistance of the Ministry as part of the counselor services that he was well informed on the necessary verification processes he needed to follow in terms of having proper travel and visa documents since he had to travel across several borders including Zurich, Switzerland and Sydney, Australia.
Mr Prasad is happy to be in the safety of his home and will now be able to pursue further studies and career at a renowned tertiary institution in Fiji.
“A very sincere vinaka vakalevu to the Fijian Government and all relevant authorities for their repatriation efforts. Their assistance demonstrates the commitment, care and compassion it has towards its citizens. I am highly impressed with how the Fijian Government has contained the pandemic. And I am utterly grateful to all the officials who made my return home possible”.
“With my experience of being stranded in a foreign country during this pandemic, I can indeed say that there is no place like home. The importance of these repatriation efforts to reunite families cannot be stressed enough. These are unprecedented times and in times like these, being surrounded by loved ones and feeling safe is paramount to wellbeing. I sincerely hope the Government continues these efforts so that more nationals can return safely to Fiji and more families can be reunited,” Mr Prasad said. He is urging those Fijian nationals wanting to return home to get in touch with Fijian MFA to seek their further assistance.
“My message to Fijians currently stranded abroad would be to stay positive and ensure to reach out to MFA regarding your situation so that you can get the support required.
Fiji is currently one of the leading countries in terms of handling the pandemic situation and from my repatriation experience, as well as my 14 days mandated quarantine experience, I can guarantee that Fiji is one of the handful of countries who are excelling in simultaneously eradicating the spread of the COVID pandemic, whilst bringing Fijians home safely,” Mr Prasad elaborated.
The Fijian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is at the forefront in facilitating counselor services, collaborating with diplomatic partners to coordinate chartered flights for repatriation, communicating vital information on repatriation flights to our nationals, leading arrangements on accommodation and travel, updates on health and travel advisories, protocol and visa arrangements, transit, travel support letters to name a few.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Fiji through its High Commission in India coordinated its first repatriation flight on May 21, 2020 whereby 63 Nationals returned from Delhi via Sydney to Nadi. The second repatriation flight was organised by Fiji High Commission New Delhi to repatriate 111 nationals on June 30, 2020.