Stranded Hong Kong Express passengers were given conditional parole extension by CBP, says Combs

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THE Chinese tourists who were stranded on Saipan after Hong Kong Express Airways or HKE suspended its CNMI operation without prior notification were given conditional parole extension by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Marianas Aviation Services chief executive officer Rob Combs said on Sunday.

“After a negotiation between the Chinese government and the U.S. government, the stranded tourists were allowed by CBP to extend their stay so that they did not get punished for overstaying, which was not their fault,” he added. “It was done on a case-by-case basis.”

Amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, 130 HKE passengers were stranded on Saipan when the airline suspended its CNMI flight service on Feb. 6.

Some of these passengers sought Combs’ assistance.

“HK Express should have provided for their hotel accommodations as well as meal vouchers,” he added.

On Feb. 14, the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles stated that Chinese citizens in Saipan could return to China via South Korea.

“It is recommended that you contact South Korean airlines or their agents (Korean Air at Saipan airport), purchase the…ticket in time, and transfer back to Korea,” the consulate general said.

On Thursday, Press Secretary Kevin Bautista said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres was in direct communication with CBP’s director of operations, Brian Humphrey, the Commonwealth Ports Authority, and the Chinese consulate in LA.

Combs said he had also encouraged the Chinese tourists to reach out directly to the consulate.

On Sunday, Combs said CBP officials told him that “they [the tourists] all finally got out.”

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