Plans to bring stranded South Africans home from abroad

There are more than 1,500 South Africans stranded in several foreign countries after their flights home were cancelled due to the coronavirus, and government is now making plans to assist them in getting home.


South Africans stranded abroad have a chance to come home, as government is working on an evacuation and repatriation plan to return its citizens. More than a thousand South Africans who had traveled for either work or holiday are currently stuck in a number of foreign countries as their flights had been cancelled ahead of the national lockdown. Newly-married Dave Walthan did not think he would have to extend his honeymoon to the Maldives. After marrying his wife Pam on 14 March, the couple left two days later for their seven-night honeymoon. But a few days before returning home, the…

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South Africans stranded abroad have a chance to come home, as government is working on an evacuation and repatriation plan to return its citizens.

More than a thousand South Africans who had traveled for either work or holiday are currently stuck in a number of foreign countries as their flights had been cancelled ahead of the national lockdown.

Newly-married Dave Walthan did not think he would have to extend his honeymoon to the Maldives. After marrying his wife Pam on 14 March, the couple left two days later for their seven-night honeymoon.

But a few days before returning home, the newly-weds were told that their flights to Durban were cancelled. The couple then booked with a different airline, but that flight was also cancelled.

“We then booked with yet another airline for 20h30 on 23 March. When we arrived at the airport around 18h30, we found the counter closed. They told us the flight had left but we were never advised,” he told The Citizen.

Seven days since their attempt to return home, the couple were still stuck at their hotel. They had to arrange a discounted rate for their extended stay, Walthan said.

“This results to considerable amounts of costs which is not budgeted for. It is totally out of our control. The hotel we are staying at is closing in a day or two and we will be forced to leave. It is a really stressing time for everybody. It provides us with comfort that stranded South Africans will be able to get home. It is really good news for all of us.”

Yvonne le Roux, an employee at The Citizen, had traveled to visit her daughter in Australia on 13 March so they could spend their birthdays together.

Le Roux was meant to return home this past Saturday but decided to re-book her flight when she heard of the country’s lockdown. She booked a flight to leave for Johannesburg last Friday.

“We had to pay $914 each to upgrade to premium economy. We arrived at the airport at 8am on Friday morning for the 11am flight. As we checked our luggage in, they said all flights were cancelled from South Africa’s side. I am so unsettled. As much as I love my daughter, I want to come home,” she said.

At least 1,500 stranded South Africans had reached out to the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) through Hayley Reichert, a South African expat living in the UK.

Reichert runs several WhatsApp groups per region, where she requires South Africans to complete a form of their details which would be given to Dirco.

“The forms are approved by Dirco and they help them put their repatriation plans in place. They require details such as if the South African has medical needs or requires accommodation. We also figure out how to help people financially.”

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula announced yesterday that stranded South Africans would be repatriated.

This would happen under strict conditions which include:

  • Foreign countries must charter their aircraft to South Africa without passengers, but with the crew.
  • The crew is not allowed to disembark.

South Africans who desire to come home could do so provided that:

  • The person has a fully paid return flight ticket.
  • On arrival, they are subjected to mandatory 21-day quarantine.
  • The crew shall be allowed to disembark subject to mandatory quarantine laws.

rorisangk@citizen.co.za

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