Vanuatu plans to repatriate 7000 nationals stranded overseas in coming months

The Vanuatu government says it has started planning to repatriate more than 7000 of its nationals, including those who are in Australia and New Zealand; most who have been working in the two country's labour programmes.

That's despite the fact both governments have extended their work visas to 12 months.

The Vanuatu government says flights are being organised for hundreds of citizens set to return by the end of the month.

But there are fears this might be too late for others who've been stranded in Australia on temporary visas.

Pacific Beat understands there are at least 200 Vanuatu citizens stuck abroad since March, after leaving the country for short visits; including George Malas, who visited Australia with his family for a friend's wedding almost three month ago.

He's been hoping to get on a repatriation flight and said he faces becoming unlawful in Australia in the coming days unless he is granted a new visa.

"We [are] try[ing] to extend our visa at the moment. But all the documents that we need to extend the visa, it's back in Vanuatu .. Everything is back at home," Mr Malas told Pacific Beat.

"It's locked up in my house because we didn't we didn't expect we didn't expect to be here until now."

The Australian Government has tried to accommodate for people unable to return home because of COVID-19 restrictions, and requires that people apply for a new COVID-19 pandemic visa before their current one expires if they meet certain requirements.

The Vanuatu Government says it is in talks with Australia so that the visas of people stuck can be extended.

Vanuatu's Director of Public Health Dr Len Tarivonda, who is also the head of the country's COVID-19 response unit, also told Pacific Beat that the government has started arranging flights from Australia, as well as Fiji, New Caledonia and PNG to repatriate those stuck overseas.


Photo file ABC Australia Caption: Ni- Vanuatu seasonal workers are among thousands who are stranded overseas