A Sydney mother who was left stranded in Africa where she was robbed and faced numerous flight cancellations has finally arrived home.
An overjoyed Melissa Inkster shared the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.
“OMG I AM HOME!!” she wrote.
The 44-year-old had been stranded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC) a country known as the “rape capital of the world”, under Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions.
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After being bumped off the first flight home after the DRC lifted a six-month COVID-19 border closure, Ms Inkster was offered a second chance to fly out at a cost of $15,000.
Not able to get the money herself, her friends in Sydney were able to raise funds required for a business class ticket to Sydney.
But the chance to get home was again dashed, after an email error by an agent meant the airline did not get confirmation, meaning she’d have to wait a full week again.
The mother-of-two’s flight back to Australia departed Kinshasa International Airport in the capital of the DRC on August 31 with two connecting flights including Frankfurt.
She finally arrived on Wednesday night, September 2.
In a video update on Facebook on August 31 with her fiance Joe Bagala, Ms Inkster said she was on her way home.
She reiterated that it was “not an easy place to be” but they had “survived”.
“It’s a very bittersweet day for me today,” she said.
“I’m very happy to be coming home to my family and my children and all you beautiful people who have supported me through this journey and thank you to Australia for supporting my flight and actually determining to get me home.
“I just want to say thank you and you will see me on the other side.”
She said when they “get enough money” for Mr Bagala’s ticket, he will also be able to return home.
“I’m coming next,” he said. “I can’t wait.”
Ms Inkster had been trying to get out of the Congo since COVID-19 turned a short humanitarian mission into a nightmare six months ago.
The DRC closed its borders on March 24, the day after she arrived there, stranding her in the world’s fourth most dangerous country.
She told news.com.au she had already been robbed and attacked in the DRC, and was afraid to go outdoors because of a history of sexual violence against women there.
Ms Inkster had been hopeful of returning home to see her young children for the first time in six months as she waited for the DRC to reopen its borders.
“Sometimes my son is crying, ‘Mummy, mummy, when will you be coming home?’,” she said.
“I’ve stayed in touch with WhatsApp and Skype, but … I couldn’t say because I didn’t know.
Described by friends as a “kind and resourceful” person who had set up a thriving business when her first child was a six-week-old baby, the 44-year-old has exhausted her savings while trapped in Africa.
Following unsuccessful attempts of getting out of the country and returning home, friends of Ms Inkster set up a gofundme.com page to help fund her airfare home. The fundraiser successfully raised more than $16,000.
News.com.au contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, asking if Ms Inkster could be assisted home as a humanitarian case.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement that it “stands ready to provide consular assistance to any Australian citizen, should they request it”.