Minister Naledi Pandor 
Picture: Dirco
Minister Naledi Pandor Picture: Dirco

Dirco facilitates repatriation of South Africans stranded abroad

By Karen Singh Time of article published May 22, 2020

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Durban - THE Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) has facilitated the repatriation of 5239 South Africans who were stranded abroad on several flights over the past few weeks.

Minister Naledi Pandor said while she did not have the exact figures of South Africans who still needed assistance, the number was less than those who had already been repatriated.

Pandor said in addition to those stranded at airports, the elderly and those who needed medical attention, South Africans who fall into other categories had also requested assistance.

The minister acknowledged that it took longer to assist some people because restrictions implemented by countries across the world had made the process difficult.

Pandor said the costs involved with the repatriation of citizens had not been as heavy as anticipated, as the department had spent less than R10million. She said this was much less than the R90m that had been estimated.

“I’m pleased to be able to report that we’ve had very good support from the private sector with the provision of jet fuel, particularly by Sasol, a number of millions of litres, which has allowed us to make use of South African Airways,” said Pandor.

Repatriated citizens were able to pay for themselves to return, she said.

Pandor said the department had also managed to persuade several countries which collect cargo from South Africa to allow some people to return in their passenger components at their own cost.

In response to a question regarding South Africans who had been released from prison in Brazil and requested assistance to return home, Pandor said they did not fall into the stranded or distress category.

Pandor said the same way these citizens made their way to Brazil, they would have to make their own way back to South Africa, as the department was not able to assist them.

“But nothing prevents them, as South African citizens, from approaching the Embassy of South Africa, in Brazil or it’s consulate in São Paulo.”

She said Dirco was able to facilitate the return of South Africans, who have permanent residency in other countries, following requests from ministries of foreign affairs.

Pandor said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had not granted permission for South African employees to return to work.

“We can’t compel countries to take back persons, and they will not open their borders because they are compelled to do so by the South African government,” she said.

The minister said Dirco would assist South Africans, who wish to return to other countries for work purposes, at their own expense, but would not be able to bear the cost of returning repatriated people back to the countries they had come from.

“On behalf of our government and people, I wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all governments and people of the world, who have helped our citizens during their time of need, while abroad.”

The Mercury

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