Belarusians stuck in Malaysia due to pandemic

Maryna and Alyaksei in Malaysia

Maryna and Alyaksei are spending this winter in a warm country. But it is fast turning into a nightmare, as India and Kazakhstan have closed their borders. They young people cannot get out of Asia.

The couple bought tickets home back in February. They planned to return from Malaysia via India, and from there to Moscow with a transfer in Kazakhstan.

Maryna says the situation is complicated now: “Last week we received a letter from the airline that our flight was being canceled. Then we decided that we would fly to Moscow via Almaty. We asked the airline to change the ticket, but then Kazakhstan closed the borders as well. That is, nothing flies directly to Moscow or Minsk, but connections are in the countries where quarantine is also being introduced.

Passengers at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Photo: LIM HUEY TENG / Reuters / Forum

The couple had traveled around Asia before, so they didn’t expect any problems: “The rumors about the coronavirus appeared long ago. “Some were wary of being around the Chinese. But it seemed to be somewhere far away and not very significant. We were monitoring the situation. At that time the media wrote about two patients in India, in Europe everything was calm too”.

Now the information is changing so rapidly that it is very difficult to plan a route and get a ticket in time. “We just do not let phones out of hand from morning to evening, constantly updating our mail. We correspond with airlines that are overloaded. We subscribe to all imaginable forums and telegram chats. We have written to the Belarusian embassies in India and Indonesia. The first answer came from our office in India. They wrote: “Stick to the transit zones”. What does it mean? How to stick to them? That’s when we started calling them. And in such a mundane voice they told us that they would not let us out of the plane, so we should “look for other options”.

A masked woman walks through a mosque after a coronavirus outbreak, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, March 16, 2020.
Photo: LIM HUEY TENG / Reuters / Forum

The situation was similar with the Belarusian Embassy in Indonesia (Malaysia is also involved), but today a letter has been sent in response to the request to send passport scans, contact numbers and the previously planned route. Maryna says that this is at least some hope. “At first I dreamed that our embassies would do more… at least provide some informational support — it would be very helpful.

Marina admits that it’s hard not to worry. “Friends write that foreigners are being evicted from hotels and hostels in India. In Malaysia, no such thing has been heard about yet, but there is no guarantee. I have a feeling that the doors are closing in front of us. As soon as we find some kind of flight, ready to pay crazy money for tickets today, as it turns out that a new country has closed. Belarus is open, but how do we get to it?”

Earlier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus stated that the problem with the evacuation of the citizens is getting more complicated due to the decision of Russia to close the borders, because in many directions Moscow used to be a transit hub for the Belarusians. According to the Foreign Ministry, many remain practically cut off from the possibility to return home.