98 Indonesian workers leave on RB special flight

Azlan Othman

Indonesian Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Dr Sujatmiko, accompanied by staff members of the Indonesian Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, were present during the departure of 98 Indonesian Migrant Workers (PMIs) who left for home by boarding a special flight of Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) on Friday.

The flight was organised following the temporary closure of flights to and from several countries, including Indonesia (Jakarta, Surabaya and Bali), since March 23 in an effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei Darussalam.

The Indonesian Ambassador told the Indonesian migrant workers at the airport that the special flight was a manifestation of the government’s concern for the plight of Indonesian migrant workers after the COVID-19 outbreak in Brunei in March 2020.

The Indonesian Ambassador hoped that the PMIs could return to their hometowns safely and in good health, and added that their return process was self-funded at their own expense.

“This special flight was made possible through the cooperation of the Indonesian Embassy, the Government of Brunei Darussalam, the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Jakarta, and RB, as a response of the Indonesian Embassy to the request of PMIs who wanted to return home but were hampered by the unavailability of flights to Indonesia due to the temporary closure.

ABOVE & BELOW: Indonesian Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Dr Sujatmiko speaks to one of the Indonesia Migrant Workers (PMIs); and PMIs at the check-in counters at the Departure Hall of the Brunei International Airport. PHOTOS: AZLAN OTHMAN

“We hope that the PMIs can stay healthy, avoid transmission of COVID-19 and are ready to abide by the COVID-19 protocols in Indonesia, including the 14-day quarantine,” said the Indonesian Ambassador.

The flight was organised to avoid the migrant workers from being stranded in the Sultanate, as they have either completed their work contracts but could not return due to unavailability of flights, have been laid off since their workplaces were no longer in operation, or have not received their wages in full due to the economic difficulties in Brunei as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The flight also carried onboard four expecting Indonesian women. One of them wanted to return home in order to give birth in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Embassy provided passengers with gloves, nose and mouth covering masks, and laissez-passer letters. Each passenger was given a Health Alert Card from the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Indonesia that must be filled out and handed over to the relevant authorities upon disembarkation at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta.

Although 191 Indonesians have registered with the Indonesian Embassy for the RB special flight to Jakarta, the 150-passenger capacity aircraft could only carry a maximum of 98 people in observance of physical distancing guidelines.

From Jakarta, this aircraft will transport stranded Brunei citizens back to Brunei. The Indonesian Embassy will organise another special flight to Indonesia.