Deported Samoans' belongings returned

Eight Samoan nationals quarantined in Fiji have had confiscated money and phones returned on Friday, after having them confiscated when they were turned around upon arrival at Faleolo International Airport, for quarantine reasons.

The group, which was deported to Nadi on Sunday, includes five Samoans sick with cancer who had traveled to India along with three caregivers for medical treatment. 

The youngest of the group is a three-year-old, the Samoa Observer was told. The Samoan nationals were the only ones whose belongings were released. Other deportees weren't so lucky.

The whole deported group from Samoa is residing at the Grand Melanesian Hotel in Nadi with other deportees and say they are receiving good food and service. 

One source said the group are now allowed to leave their hotel rooms for shopping while the doctors and nurses come around to conduct their health screenings everyday.

They added that the Samoan nationals are the only ones whose phones and money were released while the others' belongings are still confiscated.

They were returned to Fiji upon arrival in Apia as they did not meet the 14 day requirement for self-quarantine and medical clearance before arrival. On the way home, the group transited in Singapore, a country listed as high risk for the coronavirus.

The Government of Samoa said it was seeking answers from the Government of Fiji about why the citizens had their belongings confiscated.

One of the caregivers told the Samoa Observer that they received their phones and money back on Friday morning.

About 10 other deportees are being quarantined together with the Samoans include a Nigerian couple with their son, four from the Philippines, one from Afghanistan and two others, the Samoa Observer was told.

According to a Government statement, the Director General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, made a video call to the patients via a Fijian liaison officer after learning the patients had their personal belongings taken by Fijian officials.

The group's liaison point is Yogendra Sharma, an executive at Apollo Hospitals where the group had been receiving treatment as part of the Government's medical referral scheme. 

In the call, Ministry of Health head Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said he was prepared to take any means to help the group including buying them another phone and sim card to be able to communicate with Samoa.

“It’s sad, really sad,” he said of the alleged confiscation.

In a record of the video call shared to the Government of Samoa Facebook page, Leausa advises Mr. Sharma to give any new phone to a trusted member of staff, lest officials confiscate the replacement, too. 

He asked Mr. Sharma to buy the group some food, “especially taro, banana and some meat.”

Under new measures, Samoans and non-Samoans alike will be refused entry without a two week period of quarantine in a country and medical certification. 

The list was last updated on Friday evening, at a time when their flight may already have departed, Leausa said. 

Japan, Singapore and Thailand are the most recent countries to be added to the list of countries from which travelers are prevented from arriving without 14 days self-quarantine in a country without the virus first.  

Other countries on the list of six include: Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

“We will continue to monitor the [patients'] situation from here," Leausa said 

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