A Singaporean backpacker who was stuck in Europe because of travel restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic has been able to make it back home because of the coordinated efforts of various parties.
They include former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng, Parliamentary Secretary (Home Affairs) Amrin Amin, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Singapore High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.
Mr Nazrul Syahmi, who left Singapore late last month before advisories were made to defer non-essential travel, was supposed to return from a 20-day trip through Eastern Europe but got stuck in Slovenia due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
However, many people were determined that no Singaporean would be left behind.
Mr Nazrul had been able to travel around Krakow (Poland), Zdiar (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary) and arrived in Ljubljana (Slovenia) on March 14, with a ticket to fly home on March 17. However, by March 15, public transport was shut down. Two days later, all air transport was cancelled as well.
He emailed the MFA for help on March 18, which responded within 24 hours telling him to try to go to Zagreb, Croatia, in order to fly home. Unfortunately, taxis in Slovenia would not take him to Croatia due to border restrictions.
By March 22, he updated the MFA, and his father’s friend reached out to Mr Cheng, who in turn appealed for help from Ms Foo Chi Hsia, the Singapore High Commissioner to the UK.
The following day, Mr Nazrul was contacted by the Acting Director-General of the Directorate for Common Foreign and Security Policy in Slovenia, Ms Anita Pipan, who told him that she had been contacted by Ms Foo, and that she was looking for ways to get him home.
On the same day (March 23), Mr Nazrul’s father met Mr Amrin at the MP’s Meet-the-People Session. After hearing of the son’s plight, Mr Amrin said he would help out and follow up with the MFA as well.
The following day Mr Nazrul received a message from Ms Foo, saying she had communicated with the Slovenian Ambassador in London.
Mr Nazrul wrote that Ms Foo “had asked the British Embassy in Slovenia for assistance if they were planning another repatriation flight since I missed the previous one a few days ago. She had also asked Ms Pipan to update her if there were any evacuation flights out of the country suitable for me.”
On March 25, Ms Pipan had Mr Nazrul get in touch with the British Embassy in Slovenia, since they were actively helping British nationals to get home. When Mr Nazrul contacted the British Embassy, he was told that they could have him transported to Vienna, Austria, and told him to get a flight to London from there.
Officials from the MFA also reached out with instructions and paperwork to facilitate his travel, given the current stringent border restrictions.
On March 27, he was brought to the airport in Vienna by the British Embassy, where MFA officials met him. Because of the credentials he had been given, he was allowed to go on to Amsterdam and London, and from there, he caught a flight home.
During the different parts of his travel home, officials continued to check on him, and continued to do so even after he got back to Singapore and started serving his Stay-Home Notice.
Mr Amrin wrote in a Facebook post: “That’s dedication and commitment, serving beyond the call of duty. And to me, that’s what makes Singapore so exceptional. Our first-rate public service always there, always caring for Singaporeans, especially now.” /TISG