Wisma Putra: 4,375 Malaysians marooned abroad; 2,156 in India alone

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
A woman wearing face mask stands in front of the flight information screen at KLIA2 in Sepang January 29, 2020. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — A total of 4,374 Malaysians were stuck in 56 countries and waiting to be repatriated amid increasing global travel restrictions imposed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed today.

Of those, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said most are in India, with 2,156 Malaysians there waiting for their flights home.

“However, the number of those currently stuck in India is expected to be reduced as a large number of them will be brought back through 11 specially chartered flights,” he said during a special address broadcasted live on Facebook.

Kamarudin said that to date, 3,201 Malaysians have been brought home safely through special chartered flights with assistance from the private sector.

This includes a group of 179 Malaysians who arrived from Amritsar, India last night, and another 144 who are set to arrive around 4pm from Myanmar through Malaysia Airlines Flight MH741.

Other nations he noted with many Malaysians waiting to return home are Indonesia (680), Australia (226), New Zealand (153), Thailand (337), Saudi Arabia (121), Pakistan (128), Philippines (54), Sri Lanka (50) and UAE (43).

The deputy minister also commented on the plight of 18 Malaysians stuck in the South American nation of Bolivia after the country was placed under a two-week lockdown that began on Sunday to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The Malaysian Embassy in Lima, Peru, who are also commissioned simultaneously to Bolivia, has contacted this group of Malaysians and have provided them the necessary consular assistance.

“Considering the Bolivian government has declared a lockdown which has suspended a large number of flights, our Embassy is currently searching for alternatives to assist the 18 Malaysians who are stuck there,” he said.

Kamarudin also denied allegations that his ministry had been passing the buck of repatriation efforts to other government ministries and agencies, saying Wisma Putra are the ones who have been handling all diplomatic negotiations, declaring the only aid they received was in the form of certain parties financing the flight costs.

He stressed that such efforts to help and assist Malaysians is a matter beyond the realm of politics, pointing out the importance of unity among all during testing and unprecedented times.

“Efforts to assist Malaysians stuck abroad are among the main roles of Wisma Putra, so Wisma Putra will continue to play its role the best it can despite all the challenges up ahead.

“However, Wisma Putra fully welcomes any party looking to assist,” said Kamarudin.

Among those Kamarudin noted who have come forward to offer assistance is the chief executive of Plus Max Group, Datuk S Prakadeesh Kumar who offered to foot the costs of repatriating Malaysians currently stuck in Nepal.

He also noted how Malaysia Airlines have decided to resume several international commercial flights in April and May with the intention to repatriate Malaysians still stuck abroad.

Kamarudin also reminded all Malaysians abroad who are looking to return home to settle their flights arrangements as soon as possible before more travel restrictions are imposed by the countries they are leaving from.

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