As special repatriation flights continue in the midst of border closures, a rather unique flight took place on Friday from Taipei (Taiwan) to Da Nang (Vietnam). Of the 343 Vietnamese citizens being repatriated, 243 of them were pregnant women – some of whom were getting close to their due dates.
A flight full of expectation
The flight landed at the Da Nang International Airport at 15:46 local time. FlightRadar24.com reports that the flight then continued on to Ho Chi Minh City at 18:52, landing at its final destination at 19:57 local time.
While the 243 pregnant women were the most notable passengers, the flight was full of special cases and included the following:
- Children under 18 years of age
- Elderly passengers
- Those with underlying medical conditions
- One seriously ill patient (suffering from pancreatic cancer)
- And citizens who have overstayed their Taiwanese visas (including stranded tourists, migrant workers, and students)
Why pregnant women?
The UN International Organization for Migration notes that Taiwan is a major destination for Vietnamese migrant workers, particularly in the manufacturing and fisheries industries. In fact, of the 46,200 Vietnamese migrants working abroad in 2002, nearly 30% went to Taiwan. The only other countries more popular for Vietnamese migrant workers are Laos and Malaysia.
Thus, with a significant migrant population in Taiwan, it makes sense that there would be some families and soon-to-be families included in those numbers.
While it wasn’t explicitly stated in Vietnam Airlines’ press release, an article from the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association writes that Vietnamese migrant workers face several barriers when accessing government-funded healthcare in Taiwan. Gaps include:
- A lack of professional medical interpreters and training programs
- A lack of legal framework for medical interpreting,
- And inadequacy in the dispersal of information on existing resources that may facilitate the integration of migrants into society
This may be one particular reason for why the pregnant women were taken back to their home country.
Vietnam Airlines points out that due to its government’s temporary suspension of international flights, the planning of this flight required “close, careful coordination between the Vietnam and Taiwan authorities, Vietnam representative offices in Taiwan with Vietnam Airlines.”
All passengers and flight crews had to be checked for body temperature before boarding and protective gear was required throughout the journey, from check-in to landing. Then, immediately after landing, passengers and flight crews were taken away for isolation and health checks as prescribed.
Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center notes that this was the first repatriation of Vietnamese citizens from Taiwan since Vietnam suspended all international flights on March 22.
Vietnam Airlines says that it will continue to coordinate with the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Transport, domestic functional agencies and overseas representative missions to organize future flights and continue to bring Vietnamese citizens back home.
Do you think it was sensible to load up one aircraft with so many pregnant and elderly passengers? Or should this operation have been split into multiple flights? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.