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Thousands to be repatriated in May as others seek a way into Europe

Around 3000 Cypriot citizens will be repatriated in May, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Monday, as others stranded outside Europe are getting increasingly upset, impatient and worried as they are faced with a marathon journey of reaching the continent first to then find a flight into Cyprus.

One employee for a Cypriot financial services company based in Limassol has been stranded in Malaysia for more than a month, according to her company sources, with no available flights into Europe as Malaysia is in lockdown.

“We have a Cypriot citizen who went to Malaysia for business meetings and now is stuck there due to the pandemic. She has been there for more than a month and her visa expires on May 22,” the company said, adding that the employee has already registered with the Foreign Ministry’s connect2cy platform through which Cypriot citizens and nationals submit a request to be repatriated.

“We have contacted several parts of the government for the renewal of her visa or if they have any other alternatives to give. We contacted both the consulate of Cyprus in Malaysia and the consulate of Malaysia in Cyprus but without any response,” the company’s Travel Manager said, who voiced concerns that their employee’s visa will expire before any solution is found for her repatriation which may cause trouble with the local authorities.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Demetris Samouil told in-cyprus that there are currently four people stranded in Malaysia who have been advised to make their own arrangements to Europe.

He explained that there are similar cases of other Cypriot residents and nationals stranded in third countries, advising that when the procedure started around 125-130 such repatriation requests were submitted with the Foreign Ministry.

Asked how people stranded in third countries are repatriated to Cyprus, Samouil said that flights are organised in collaboration with other European countries. If for instance a European country is organising a rescue flight for its nationals from a third country, then other European nations with people stranded in that country on their list will arrange for its nationals to board on the same flight to Europe, and then make further arrangements from Europe to Cyprus.

He noted that the EU also organises flights to Europe from third countries, for which priority is given to European nationals.

Asked about the issue of visa expiry for those who are stranded in third countries, he said that many countries are flexible on the issue due to the exceptional situation, adding that there were some cases in which the Foreign Ministry intervened for visa extensions.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Monday that since March 21 when flights were banned, 5,056 people were repatriated, 4126 of whom between April 13 and May 3.

Cyprus expects to repatriate around 3000 more citizens and legal residents by the end of May.

Pictured: A family jog at a park near Petronas Twin Towers as Malaysia reopens a majority of businesses after a movement control order was imposed to fight the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

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