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By using Mattala and Katunayake airports repatriation will be speeded up – officials

HUB OPS: A Gulfstream G200 which ferried in marine engineers at Mattala airport. An Antonov An124 which came in for crew rest and technical services is seen in the background.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will use two of its international airports at Katunayake and Mattala for the repatriation of Lankans abroad who want to return, but they will remain closed for regular international travel until health authorities approve, senior officials said.

The use of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake and the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) in Mattala for repatriation will speed up the process, officials at Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) said.

“The airport will remain closed for normal arrivals until health officials permit, meanwhile we will concentrate on repatriating stranded Sri Lankans, now more aggressively than before using both BIA and MIA,” they said.

According to officials, due to the health and safety measures, it takes on average 6 hours for a single aircraft and the passengers to clear out the airport. Therefore, BIA currently can accommodate a maximum of only 4 aircrafts in day.

Therefore, by using MRIA, officials say will help bring down more passengers as well as reduce the stress in the process.

In June and July MRIA has handled over 60 international flight movements facilitating over 2,200 passengers.

There were news reports circulating that Sri Lanka was again halting repatriation after resuming early this month. However, Foreign Ministry officials had cleared the air saying it is only a rescheduling but not a postponement.

Daily Mirror newspaper quoted Director General East Asia Kandeepan Balasubramaniam of the Foreign Ministry as saying that there is no postponement of scheduled repatriation flights.

“There is no postponement but a slight delay, in order to reduce the pressure on local quarantine facilities. Even this week repatriation flights are due to arrive in Sri Lanka as scheduled,” he said.

Sri Lanka has for far repatriated 25,000 stranded Sri Lankans and there are approximately 52,000 who want to return to the country. Most of them are labourers and maids predominately stuck in the Middle East.

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(COLOMBO/Aug27/2020)

Reported by Mahadiya Hamza