2 tales of Sask. women stranded abroad: For one, a mad dash to get home; for another, fear of flight
Worry that permanent residency will expire is top of mind for woman in Pakistan
Regina woman Sydney Harrison is grateful to be home after a mad dash onto a flight from Argentina, but not every Saskatchewan resident abroad is eager to hop on a plane at this point.
For now, Saskatoon's Emaan Arslan is staying put in Islamabad, Pakistan, petrified at the thought of flying.
Those mixed reactions are partially in response to a plea from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said on Monday that "if you're abroad, it's time for you to come home."
But they're also in response to the unique circumstances of the countries the two women travelled to.
Harrison, who is now back home in Regina, caught the last United Airlines flight from Buenos Aires on Monday night, with only 10 minutes to spare, before the airline began a 30-day suspension of international flights.
"It was just relief," she said of the feeling when her flight landing.
Harrison had been out on what should have been a three-day hike when Trudeau delivered his message for Canadians abroad.
She and her friends returned within a day, and with airlines impossible to reach by phone, they raced to the airport to book whatever flights they could.
"You could just feel the panic and people en masse … running around, and it was pretty crazy," Harrison said.
In spite of the language barrier between Harrison and the Spanish-speaking employees at the airport, they scrambled to get her and her friends on the plane. They ended up holding the plane just so they could get on.
"I just couldn't believe it. It almost felt like a dream still until I got home and actually got some real sleep," Harrison said.
Fear of flight
Arslan, on the other hand, said her scheduled flight out of Islamabad at the end of April is in limbo. Prices for flights right now — at more than double the $800 flight she had scheduled — are prohibitive for her.
She said the masses of people, and the confined spaces in airports and on airplanes, are among the biggest fears she has as cases of coronavirus in Pakistan have nearly doubled since Tuesday.
"I'm scared to travel," Arsland said.
"My fear is an exposure … at an airport, in the flights, at the airports during my connections," she said. "This is kind of social interaction too. Obviously, you're interacting with people. I don't know. I'm confused and scared."
Her long-term fear is that her permanent residency in Canada expires in May, and she's not sure if she'll be flying home before then.
She is calling on the federal government to extend permanent residencies, which Pakistan has already done.
"Are they going to allow me afterwards to enter in Canada as the nasty situation [calms] down?" Arslan said.
CBC reached out to Immigration Canada to inquire about what will happen to permanent residents in Arslan's situation, but has not yet received a response.
Arslan said she is "fine" with staying in Islamabad longer than she'd originally planned.
She has been away from Canada since early December and is planning on starting a family with her husband, who applied to immigrate to Canada two years ago but has not yet been approved.
Still, she has a home, banking, a vehicle, a career and a life back in Saskatoon that she worries she won't easily be able to return to if the federal government doesn't act now.
Permanent residency reapplications can take a long time for approval, she said.
With files from Thomas Daigle and The Morning Edition