P.M. reveals flight schedules

The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has revealed plans and dates for incoming flights to Samoa in the coming months.

Passenger travel is banned as part of state of emergency (S.O.E.) restrictions, with the exception of flights that are given an express exemption by the Cabinet. 

In his Wednesday night programme Tuilaepa outlined the expected schedule for those exempted flights, including repatriation flights for Samoan citizens. 

Among them is a flight scheduled to bring home over 200 deportees from the United States who had served their sentences and had been awaiting deportation. That flight is scheduled to take place on 5 February 2021. 

"This is what people don't know: that over 200 people who had been charged with serious crimes overseas and they should be deported; we have an obligation to bring them back," Tuilaepa said during his weekly programme with TV3 on Wednesday.

Tuilaepa also revealed new plans for a much-anticipated repatriation flight for more than 140 Samoan sailors stranded overseas. 

The sailors, some of whom had been complaining of being stranded on various Mediterranean Shipping Company (M.S.C.) vessels, were first intended to be brought back into the country before Christmas. Those plans were postponed at the last minute, following Samoa’s first positive tests for the coronavirus, which later turned out to be non-transmissible historical cases.  

A new date of 22 January had been set instead, much to the relief of the sailors’ families, who had been anticipating reunions with their seagoing relatives – many of whom had been away from the country for more than two years. 

The Prime Minister has said the sailors were on standby to return home on the earliest possible flight home from the American city of Los Angeles.

But their journey will now instead be routed via Dubai, from where the returning sailors will take a direct flight to New Zealand and then Apia, the Prime Minister said. 

"The intention is to ensure the sailors are quickly removed from areas that are affected with COVID-19 as well as the new mutation of the virus," Tuilaepa said.

A 17 January flight is scheduled for the first batch of 165 seasonal workers ready to depart Samoa for work, the Prime Minister said.

On 21 January, another 165 seasonal workers are expected to depart, followed by another 165 on 25 January. 

The last group of workers to leave the country will follow less than a week later, on January 29.

A repatriation flight has also been scheduled bound for Tonga carrying 21 Tongan nationals who have been seeking a way home since the end to outbound flights from Samoa. 

On 12 February, there will be another repatriation flight scheduled for Samoans who wish to return home from New Zealand. 

Meanwhile, on the following day 13 February, another repatriation flight is scheduled to arrive from Fiji.

"We have a repatriation flight scheduled for scholarship students who wish to return home from Fiji upon completion of their studies and, when it returns, it will take our students who wish to continue and finish their studies, especially those who are studying medicine in Fiji," said Tuilaepa.

He added that there are also flights scheduled for March 5 and 26 March, 2021.

Tuilaepa said considerable time is left before the new year’s schedule of repatriation flights is completed and more administrative work will be required to make it happen. 

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