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[Media Release - MFAI] French Navy Repatriation flight to French Polynesia for French citizens

Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki – Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Discussions over a number of weeks between the respective foreign ministries of France and the Cook Islands, as well as the Office of the French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch, supported by the French and Tahitian community in Rarotonga have enabled arrangements for the repatriation of four French nationals to Tahiti tomorrow on a French navy aircraft CN235.

The aircraft has been approved diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) to land and uplift four French citizens. As per current COVID health and immigration entry protocols, zero contact procedures will be in effect between crew onboard the aircraft and Cook Islands ground handling crew.

“MFAI appreciate the full co-operation of all border agencies and Air Rarotonga in ensuring all health and immigration protocols are observed to enable the repatriation of French nationals who have been stranded in Rarotonga since the March border closures as a result of COVID,” said MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann.

Border agency and Air Rarotonga officials met briefly this afternoon to discuss procedural matters including a seamless transition of passengers from terminal to aircraft to ensure adherence to zero contact and compliance with the Cook Islands COVID-19 air and maritime Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs). All border agencies, inclusive Te Marae Ora – Ministry of Health are confident that every precaution has been taken to mitigate against any COVID risk. It is expected the aircraft will be on the ground for no more than an hour to uplift passengers before return travel to Pape’ete, Tahiti, French Polynesia.

French Honourary Consul to the Cook Islands, Ms Patricia Barton has been liaising with the stranded French citizens during their extended stay in the Cook Islands, together with the Tahitian community of Rarotonga.

“Border agencies continue to review and strengthen our border SoPs and personnel capabilities to ensure we are at optimal levels of preparedness to mitigate against COVID-19 risk,” said Secretary Herrmann. “As we head into the cyclone season, additional consideration is being given to our health and immigration protocols to ensure should it become necessary, we can facilitate inwards international assistance whilst continuing to mitigate against COVID risk. Such an endeavour requires whole of government consideration and co-operation and sustained engagement and support from our closest security partners - New Zealand, Australia and France.”

Queries regarding this media release can be directed to MFAI Immigration Compliance and Office Manager Chere Arthur at chere.arthur@cookislands.gov.ck or 29347