Justin McNulty MLA
SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty MLA has called on the Irish and British Governments to launch an immediate initiative to bring our citizens from across the globe home.
Mr McNulty said, "As this Coronavirus pandemic ravages across the globe, we need to help people from this island who are in different parts of the world to return home.
"We need to see the governments work together and implement a crisis repatriation. The vast majority of commercial airlines have grounded their fleets or drastically reduced their schedules and therefore I believe it is no incumbent on the governments to charter planes and bring people home.
"When some of the large holiday companies collapsed governments stepped in and introduced such an initiative, so there is precedence and the mechanism exits to do this.
"I have been contacted by families of young people who are effectively stranded in places like Australia. They had flights planned, or have booked incredibly expensive late flights – some have their visas due to expire and yet they are stranded thousands of miles away with little prospect of getting home. This is a humanitarian issue and it must be addressed.
"I fully appreciate this rescue mission will not be without challenge, and people returning home would be expected to quarantine for a specified period to ensure they were not displaying any of the symptoms and flight crews would need PPE. These issues are not insurmountable. Bottom line is that citizens are marooned abroad and need help. We cannot have them stocked up in airports or literally roughing it not knowing if or when they’ll get home."