Call for support to sort out students’ visas worth $1million
ABOUT forty-six (46) students who are expected to be repatriated on January 11, 2021, from the Philippines have issues with their visas.
And they have just under a month to settle their outstanding visa fines before the final repatriation flight next month.
The visa issue facing the students was highlighted during yesterday’s radio talk-back show over the national broadcaster.
Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affair and National External Trade Cornelius Walegerea said they have found that some of the students’ visas in the Philippines have been expired during pre-COVID, meaning they have been expired in 2018 when there was still no COVID.
“So it is very difficult to deal with given that when visas have expired we have to pay for the fine. Those fines began when those visas expired.
“So it is very difficult with those visas issue.”
Mr. Walegerea said the situation came to light when the education and the health committee was set up to start repatriating the local students from the Philippines.
Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM) Dr. Jimmie Rodgers said given the situation, he calls on the students’ relatives to rally together and try to help the students meet their outstanding visas payment.
Dr. Rodgers said the government has already given money to the students as part of the scholarship to sort their visas out.
However, he warned that if students fail to sort out their visas, they might not be included in the final repatriation flight.
“The last flight from the Philippines will be on the 11th of January 2021, and if those students cannot sort out their visas, there is the likelihood they could be excluded from the government flight.
“The government cannot take responsibility to pay for what it has already been paid for,” he said.
The SPM said for some of these students their outstanding bills and fine stands at around $100,000 Solomon dollar.
“This just shows that some of the students we have spent to put there are not really concern about their responsibility and are expecting the government to bail them out.
“But that won’t happen,” he said.
Dr. Rogers added the only option these students can come out from the Philippines if their visas are not sorted out is, for the Philippines government to deport them.
“If the Philippines authority deports them they can come home but they will not be able to go back to the Philippine. They will be red marked by the Philippines government.
“And it will become an issue if they are deported,” he said.
Dr Rogers said the government cannot meet all the outstanding visas which total up to a million-dollar.
“To add on another million dollars for 46 visas for the students, I think it is a little bit too much for us,” he said.
He explained this may sound cruel but it’s time for the relatives of the students to step in and try to help them to sort out their visas.
“From the government’s side we have been putting in official representation to the Philippines government for leniency, and that’s what the government can do and we have partly succeeded in some.
“But the most important thing now that we are one month away till the last flight comes in is to sort out the visa costs. Because if those visas are not sorted then it will become an issue for those students,” the SPM highlighted.
Mr. Walegerea said total cost covers the visa fines and the cost of renewing their visas.
Mr. Walegerea said the ministry is working hard to address the situation.
So far well over 160 students studying in the Philippines have arrived in the country over the past week.
The first 133 arrived last week while more than 30 arrived over the weekend.
By FOLLET JOHN