10 April 2021
Some 60 stranded former non-resident workers in the Macau SAR were repatriated yesterday via AirAsia, some of them having medical conditions requiring urgent care.
The return flight will bring in 12 local residents from Malaysia who were in transit from different regions.
One of the key persons involved in organizing this flight, Agnes Goh, said that many of the stranded workers have been waiting for a long time for this chartered flight, given the absence of direct flights from the city due to entry and border restrictions.
“Those terminated do not have Hong Kong IDs and so going to Hong Kong for a flight was not an option,” said Goh.
Unlike the first batch from the repatriation flight from Hong Kong to Malaysia, the Malaysian Consulate had negotiated with Hong Kong authorities to exempt former non-resident workers from Macau to carry out the quarantine measures.
“On this flight, we have four heavily pregnant women and also a few who have medical issues. [Many] of them do not have consulates here in Macau so we helped to organize them together, as well as coordinate in finding them resources and short-term accommodation,” Goh said.
With the ongoing border restrictions and the suspension of commercial flight services, the repatriation flight came as a blessing for dozens of foreign nationals who have also been stranded in Macau as they decided to join the flight to transit in Kuala Lumpur.
Many of them are of different nationalities, coming from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, South Africa, Korea, Kazakhstan, India, Turkey, China and Japan.
Currently, Malaysia allows a 12-hour transit.
However, a special exemption was made by Malaysian authorities as many of those transiting passengers are only able to catch the next flight after the 12-hour period, due to the limited number of flights going back to their home countries, according to Celia Lao, CEO of AirAsia Hong Kong and Macau.
Yesterday’s flight landed in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Main Terminal.
As current travel restrictions in Malaysia only allow transit within the same terminal for international passengers, arrangements were made for all guests to disembark at the KLIA Main Terminal to enable foreign national guests to connect to their next flights home.
“KLIA Terminal 2 does not have any connecting flights. So in order to bring more passengers home and bring back overseas to Macau, we moved the arrival of the flight to Terminal 1 for them to transit early. For this movement, we needed to get approval from our headquarters in Malaysia,” Lao told the Times.
“[Another challenge was] to discuss and negotiate with the [Malaysian] government to relax the passenger transit hour limit to match the connecting flight of passengers in their next flight,” she added.
Meanwhile, there are still hundreds of stranded workers in the region who are waiting for chartered flights back home.
Therefore, Goh hoped that while these stranded workers are not capable of being financially resourceful – as it is illegal to work without a permit – the government would provide short-term assistance for these former workers.
“I feel that the Macau government should set up some financial support for these people who have previously made a tremendous contribution to the prosperity of Macau. Now that the pandemic is happening, they should also help and offer support financially,” Goh expressed.
“They can extend their immediate help to those people who are suffering financially and medically. The hospitals charge them [more than] the local residents and it is not fair because they are already jobless with medical conditions and they cannot go to the hospital because they are financially unable to do so,” she added.