COVID-19: Stranded Singaporean Student Rescued by Singapore and British Diplomats
The rescue was "like a movie" in Coronavirus crisis.
One Singaporean student’s thirst for adventure almost saw him left high and dry, with no way home when Slovenia closed its borders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nazrul Syahmi was stranded in Slovenia for 12 days following an air traffic ban and public transport shutdown. He finally made it back to Singapore with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and several foreign diplomats, Member of Parliament (MP) Amrin Amin said in a Facebook post today (March 30).
The rescue was “like a movie” and involved British diplomats sending a convoy to escort Nazrul, ex-Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng added in a separate Facebook post.
In a personal account posted on Cheng’s page, Nazrul explained that he had left for Europe on Feb 26, before the Singapore government advised residents to avoid all non-essential travel.
His backpacking trip took him to Wroclaw, Krakow, Zdiar, and Budapest before he finally reached Ljubljana on March 14.
Nazrul was scheduled to fly home on March 17. But as luck would have it, the Slovenian government enacted a ban on public transport on March 16 and a ban on flights in and out of the country on March 17 in an effort to contain and control the spread of the coronavirus.
Nazrul immediately packed his bags and made for the airport on March 16 when he heard the news.
But it was just the start of his troubles.
Stranded Singaporean student
While taxis were excluded from the transport ban, local drivers refused to ferry him to the airport as it was outside the city, Nazrul said.
After finally securing transport to the airport the next day, he arrived to find that it was closed.
With his airline remaining uncontactable, Nazrul had no choice but to head back to Ljubljana and extend his hostel stay.
His attempts to head to Croatia, as advised by MFA, failed when he was again rejected by local taxi drivers.
In the meantime, Croatia also announced heightened travel restrictions, barring admission to all travellers except Croatian citizens returning home, foreign citizens departing to their home countries, diplomats, law enforcement staff, medical workers, and others on a case-by-case basis.
Travellers from Slovenia are also required to self-isolate or stay in government quarantine facilities for 14 days, depending on the region they are arriving from.
Back in Singapore, his worried family contacted Cheng and Amrin for help.
Amrin promised to look into the case and follow up with MFA, while Cheng contacted Foo Chi Hsia, the Singapore High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, for help.
With the assistance of MFA, the Singapore High Commission in London, Singapore Consulate in Vienna, and the British Embassy in Slovenia, it was finally decided that Nazrul would travel to Vienna escorted by a convoy from the British Embassy and fly to London via Amsterdam.
Nazrul’s eventful trip finally came to an end when he was able to book a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore, arriving back home on March 28.
The student, who is currently serving out his stay-home notice, said he was “deeply thankful” for MFA’s support and for continuing to check on him even after he had reached home.
Amrin expressed kudos to Foo and MFA’s officials, writing: “That’s dedication and commitment, serving beyond the call of duty. And to me, that’s what makes Singapore so exceptional.”
Diplomacy also saved the day when 14 Singaporeans and their family were evacuated from Peru on a flight arranged by Taiwan’s Representative Office in Peru on March 29. They had been stranded in the South American country after the local government declared a State of Emergency.