Norwich teenager stranded in Fiji with expired visa during coronavirus
PUBLISHED: 06:30 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 14:13 03 April 2020
A Norwich teenager has said she feels like she has been forgotten while stranded in Fiji with an expired visa during coronavirus.
Emily Rash, 19, flew out to Fiji in January for a two month volunteering placement during which she built a health care centre and worked on youth projects around mental health and female empowerment.
But as the former Norwich School student finished the placement in the village of Naqelecibi, which had no phone service, she learnt on March 17 - for the first time - about the strict measures enforced to curb coronavirus.
Miss Rash, who works as a healthcare assistant at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, was due to fly to Australia for the second part of her gap year before studying medicine at the University of Nottingham next year.
But as borders closed she was unable to catch a flight to Australia and was left with uncertainty over travel back to the UK as she spent four days in Fiji airport trying to get a flight.
She said her visa, which expired on March 23, can only be extended if she has proof of an outbound flight.
She said: “It was impossible to get a flight as everything was cancelled. I tried to get a flight to LA but it was full. I have also lost my credit card and I am sending a friend money but if she gets a flight I have no idea how I will get money. I met a couple who have spent £12,000 trying to get home but they are still here. It feels like we have been forgotten.
“We have been left in the dark as the situation changes every day. I have no idea what is going to happen with my visa or what the consequences are. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions.”
Now Miss Rash is staying in hostel near an airport, but does not know how long she can stay there for.
She added: “I had an amazing Fijian family in the village I was staying and they have been in constant contact and said I could stay with them. But now, due to lockdown measures, I am not able to travel there. If I can’t stay in the hostel, who have been supportive and housing a lot of travellers, I don’t know where I can stay.”
Keen to get home to family in Norfolk, Miss Rash said: “I can’t be there to support my family which is hard. I feel bad as they’re worrying about me.”
Earlier this week, foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced an arrangement between the government and airlines in a bid to fly home tens of thousands of stranded British travellers where commercial flights were no longer available.
Mr Raab said priority would be given to the most vulnerable - including the elderly or those with pressing medical needs - and also to countries where there are large numbers of British tourists trying to return to the UK.
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