by BERNAMA/ graphic by MZUKRI
MORE than 350 of the 500 Malaysian students in Turkey want to return to Malaysia following the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, according to a survey by the Malaysian Students Association in Turkey (MASAT).
MASAT president Nur Izzah Fakharuldin said the finding prompted MASAT to present a paper to the embassy on chartering an aeroplane that would be funded by its own students to bring them back to Malaysia.
“We hope students and parents can be calm and patient. We keep in touch with the embassy and other fellow students here and keep them informed of any developments,” she said when contacted by Bernama yesterday.
However, the travel plan hit a snag after Turkey on Friday suspended all international flights to deal with the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
In addition, individuals who want to leave a city will need the permission of their respective state’s governors.
“Malaysian students are not just in Istanbul, but all over Turkey. So we need to fine-tune many things to make this happen and gain the cooperation and approval of the Turkish government,” she said.
Nur Izzah added that while the embassy had been informed that Qatar Airways would still be available for the Istanbul-Kuala Lumpur route, MASAT is of the opinion that the route – requiring transit in a third country – might expose students to COVID-19.
Nurul Izzah – a student of Istanbul’s Aydin University – said most Malaysian students in Turkey either receive Turkish scholarships or are self-funded.
Meanwhile, Chargé d’Affaires of the Malaysian Embassy in Turkey Arhan Syafrisyah Shah Anuar said bringing students home especially in the current situation is complex and requires the cooperation of many parties.
“The government is aware of parents’ feelings (but) we’re in an extraordinary situation. In the past, we only needed to move from point A to point B. But now, there are many things that need to be refined on the government side.
“(Even) if students are taken back to Malaysia, they will be taken to the quarantine centre for 14 days and will not be able to return home straight away,” he said in an interview with MASAT via Facebook, yesterday.
The government recently announced that Malaysians returning from overseas must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a special place set by the government effective April 3.
Arhan Syafrisyah said for the time being, the embassy advised students to stay in Turkey and follow the instructions issued by local authorities as well as restricting travel to safeguard their health.
No Malaysian students were reported to be infected with COVID-19 in Turkey at this time.
He also urged any Malaysian who has yet to register with the embassy to do so to facilitate repatriation efforts, if necessary.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases in Turkey besides 168 deaths so far.