Hundreds of volunteers being sent home from Samoa

Volunteers across Samoa are being repatriated to New Zealand, Australia, the United States and farther afield because of coronavirus fears, the Samoa Observer has learned.

Volunteer Services Abroad (V.S.A.); the Australian Volunteers for International Development (A.V.I.D.); the Peace Corps; and Projects Abroad are just some of the agencies who have decided to bring their volunteers home as a precautionary measure instead of leaving them in Samoa.

All Peace Corp operations globally have been suspended and volunteers are being withdrawn. 

The evacuation of Samoa’s 40 volunteers and one Peace Corps Response volunteer is expected to finish this week, including some of the American staff in the Peace Corps’ offices.

Projects Abroad, a non-government volunteer programme will finish withdrawing its volunteers from all Samoa by the end of the week. New arrivals have been rescheduled to arrive after June 1 at the earliest.

There are still eight Samoa based Projects Abroad placements advertised on their website.

On Monday, the Australian Government announced it would begin a “phased and risk-based” repatriation of its volunteers over the next two to three weeks from the 26 countries in which it has volunteers, and has suspended sending volunteers to foreign countries.

And on Tuesday, the New Zealand Government announced it would suspend sending volunteers to new missions for the next 16 days, and will repatriate volunteers who have been identified as susceptible to the virus, which has been labelled C.O.V.I.D.-19.

Other volunteers have been given the option to return to New Zealand, while some will work remotely with their partner organisations. The Timor Leste and Kiribati programme have been suspended.

In Samoa, one volunteer who was in the at-risk age category has gone home, while the other one who is here with their partner will see out their placement. Two volunteers who were scheduled to arrive this month have been postponed. 

The Japan International Cooperation Agency said it has not decided yet whether to repatriate its 60 volunteers back to Japan and is waiting on the Government of Samoa’s announcements. 

“At this moment we are not at the stage to issue an announcement on any particular plan to withdraw the Volunteers where nothing has been announced from the Government of Samoa regarding outbreak of C.O.V.I.D. -19 in Samoa with confirmed cases,” Ambassador Genichi Terasawa told the Samoa Observer in an email.

“Meanwhile, when needed, we are always ready to respond to any incident in Samoa for protecting Japanese residents, taking into account various elements including availability of medical services in Samoa.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not respond to a written request for comment on the situation.

A.V.I.D. has not responded to written requests for comment about their Samoa based volunteers, but the Samoa Observer understands they are to leave the country this month. 


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