Repatriation flights to continue until September

The repatriation of Samoan seasonal workers back to the country will continue until the end of September, says an Air New Zealand official.

The Country Manager for Air New Zealand in Samoa, Karen Gatt, told the Gisborne Herald newspaper in an interview that they are working with both the Samoan and New Zealand governments to repatriate the workers.

“We're happy to play a part in returning workers home,” she said, reports Gisborne Herald. “We will also continue to offer seats to seasonal workers on our fortnightly scheduled repatriation flights, which are currently approved to operate to the end of September.”

Last Friday an Air New Zealand 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft flew to Samoa with 300 seasonal workers from Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Blenheim, Martinborough and the Bay of Plenty on board with most of them getting quarantined upon their arrival at their coastal village of Poutasi on the south coast of Upolu.

According to the Gisborne Herald, Air New Zealand is working closely with New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc, which is the largest employer of Samoan seasonal workers in New Zealand, to coordinate the return of workers employed in orchards across the country.

More than 2000 Samoans were employed as fruit pickers over the season.

New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc Trade Strategy and Policy Manager, Gary Jones, said the relationship between Samoa and the New Zealand pipfruit industry was “deep and personal.”

“We are family and when regional leaders in Samoa asked our industry and the Samoan government to bring seasonal workers home safely, we responded immediately,” he said, reports Gisborne Herald. “We are working closely with recognised seasonal employers across New Zealand and Air New Zealand to ensure their workers are able to get home.”

Last Thursday Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi indicated during his 2AP radio program that the Government is considering stopping the repatriation flights altogether, after incidents of quarantined passengers getting into a brawl as well as sneaking out of a quarantine facility during their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

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