[WATCH] Government announces voluntary repatriation scheme for foreign nationals

The government will heavily subsidise repatriation flights to any foreign national residing in Malta who wishes to return home

File photo
File photo

The government has launched a voluntary repatriation scheme for foreign nationals, subsidising flights for anyone who wishes to return to his or her home country.

These flights, especially ones outside of Europe, are subsidised by the government as a form of assistance to all foreign individuals on a humanitarian basis, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"Over the past weeks Malta has assisted thousands of residents and tourists who expressed their desire, and in some cases need, to return to their home country. Malta was the first country in Europe to close flights from Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Switzerland on the 10 March 2020," foreign minister Evarist Bartolo said.

While this step, he argued, helped Malta contain the spread of Covid-19, it resulted in thousands of individuals being stranded in Malta. A total 4,206 individuals were repatriated over the past three weeks.

"The Maltese government is now extending the call to all foreign nationals, who either resided or who were here on a temporary visit, and who wish to be repatriated to their home country.

"Assistance is also available to European Union citizens and third-country nationals who have been staying in Malta for different purposes such as employment, education and family reasons, among others. Foreign individuals who are not in possession of a residence document are also entitled to assistance," the minister said.

These individuals are being asked to register their interest to utilise one of these repatriation flights by Sunday 19 April 2020 through a government website.

On Monday 13 April, a helpline will be launched to assist on queries and telephone registrations.

The dates of these flights will be announced over the coming weeks.

A nominal fee shall apply to all bookings. Individuals who book a seat for a flight but do not turn up shall incur the full cost of the flight.

"This scheme is a voluntary one and the government extends its support to all those individuals, irrespective of nationality, insofar that if they lose their employment or job they will be aided as per earlier notifications," the ministry said.

A similar scheme was launched by the UK government in recent days but was lambasted due to the hefty prices of flight tickets, purportedly close to £1,000 per ticket.