By Victoria Ojeme
The Federal Government has welcomed about 27 Nigerian girls who were stranded in Lebanon but now successfully evacuated back to Nigeria with the help of the Nigerian and Lebanese government alongside international aid organisations.
Ferdinand Nwonye, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who represented the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, at the reception event at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja said the evacuation was in fulfillment of the Nigerian government’s promise to ensure no Nigerian is left stranded in Lebanon.
Nwonye said the Nigerian government was aware of the unfortunate situation they experienced in Lebanon, hence the collaboration to ensure their safe return to the country.
“I am here on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs who facilitated this return, together with the Ministry of Aviation, Embassy of Nigeria in Beirut, the Lebanese Embassy in Nigeria and the Lebanese community in Nigeria.
“These are the individuals and institutions that made it possible for you to be here today.
“It is unfortunate the situation you passed through; which is why the Ministries concerned made sure you are here today and we are telling you that you are now home today and nothing will happen to you.
“Make sure you follow the protocols they advised you on; you know what to do to recover your passports again.
“You are welcome back home and I wish you journey mercies to your various destinations,’’ Nwonye said.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman told newsmen that the stranded Nigerians were evacuated in line with the Federal Government’s guidelines on COVID-19 evacuations.
He said the girls tested negative for COVID-19 before embarking on the journey and would be allowed to go home after 14 days self-isolation, in line with the Federal Government’s guidelines for COVID-19 evacuations.
He explained that their passports were retrieved from them upon arrival and they are expected to collect them back with proof of COVID-19 tests which they are expected to take again once they complete their 14-day self-isolation.
The spokesperson said the girls were tested in Beirut before embarking on the journey and they were also profiled on arrival.
Also speaking, Mr Philip Webbe, a representative of the Silver Wings Group in Nigeria, said the Lebanese community and its Embassy in Nigeria had facilitated the return of the girls with the support of the Nigerian government.
Webbe said it was in fulfillment of their word that they would not leave any Nigerian girl stranded in Lebanon.
“We are the company, silver wings that brought the Chartered flight to Nigeria.
We are evacuating stranded Nigerian girls that are in Lebanon. These girls had nobody to assist them to bring them back to Nigeria.
“The Lebanese Community is assisting them with the help of the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Aviation, the Lebanese Ambassador to Nigeria and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Lebanon, and they have put great efforts to bring them back.
“We had 27 girls that came on this flight and just like we promised last time, we will not leave any stranded Nigerian girl in Lebanon.
“On this flight, Mr Fassai Khalid supported 20 girls to come and there were another seven girls facilitated by the Lebanese community.
“They all came today and they are finishing the process. Some came yesterday, some will come tomorrow, we won’t leave anyone of them behind.
One of the returnees who spoke on condition of anonymity appreciated the Nigerian and Lebanese governments for ensuring their safe return back home.
She said that if not for the assistance, they would have been left stranded in Lebanon as they could not afford to buy tickets to return home.
The returnee said they encountered many challenges in Lebanon with many of them being owed seven to eight months salaries by their employers
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