The Jakarta Post
With the help of diplomatic missions abroad, dozens of Indonesian citizens have been repatriated in the past week following flight restrictions imposed in some countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the government has stated there was no policy for structured repatriation, the stranded citizens — most of whom were short-term visitors — were eager to come home at their own expense.
On Sunday, at least 75 Indonesians who had been stranded in Egypt arrived in Jakarta via a special Air Cairo flight. The returnees included migrant workers, students as well as those who visited the country for training and traveling.
The Indonesian Embassy in Cairo said in a statement on Sunday that the special flight would also be used to repatriate around 80 Egyptian citizens who were now stranded in Bali and Jakarta back to their country.
The voluntary repatriation was due to the closure of international flights in Egypt since March 19. The Indonesian Embassy and the Egyptian government agreed to provide the special flight — bound for Bali and Jakarta — and charged US$700 for each ticket.
“Initially, there were 100 [Indonesian] citizens who were interested to participate in the voluntary repatriation,” said Indonesian Ambassador to Egypt Helmy Fauzy.
He said the number dropped to 75 after the embassy announced that the repatriation was only for those who had urgent matters at home.
On the same day, 37 Indonesians departed Vietnam’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City using Vietjet Airlines flight VJ888.
They had been stranded in the country for the past month due to travel restrictions imposed by the Vietnamese government to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The special flight cost $278 per seat — a discount from the normal fare of $385 — and carried Indonesian citizens who had visited Vietnam for internships, traveling as well as workers who had been laid off.
The Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok, with the help of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, repatriated 66 Indonesians on Friday. Most of the Indonesians were embassy interns or exchange students.
The embassy previously facilitated the repatriation of 356 Indonesians in Thailand following the Thai government’s decision to ban flights from April 4 to April 30.
A day earlier, the Indonesian Embassy in Colombo also facilitated the repatriation of 335 Indonesian migrant workers in Sri Lanka.
The embassies said the repatriations were conducted accordingly with standardized health protocols.
The government has yet to issue a statement regarding the handling of the returnees upon their arrival in Jakarta or Bali, and whether they will be allowed to return to their hometown after domestic flights and other inter-provincial means of transportation were halted due to a mudik (exodus) ban that will be in place until June 1.