South Africans have been trapped in Morocco for the past month due to travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: Supplied
South Africans have been trapped in Morocco for the past month due to travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Picture: Supplied

Scores of South Africans stranded in Morocco due to lockdown restrictions

By Sameer Naik Time of article published May 2, 2020

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A group of South Africans stranded in Morocco for more than a month are pleading with the government to have them repatriated as they continue to battle with finances and resources.

Around 34 South Africans are trapped in the country due to travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, with most stranded in Morocco’s largest city Casablanca as well as Marrakech. Many are quickly running out of funds and are desperate to return home.

Kwena Moabelo has been in Morocco for six weeks. The Joburg man travelled to Casablanca to propose to his Moroccan girlfriend Sanaa.

He was meant to spend seven days with his fiancee in the north African country before returning home. However, Moabelo is unsure when he’ll be back home.

“The lockdown has definitely affected the excitement around the proposal,” he said.

“However, we did our best to create a happy time for ourselves despite the restrictions. But it changed

our plans and took away part of the initial excitement.”

Moabelo has been staying in a flat in Casablanca and has negotiated a weekly rental deal with the landlord.

His unexpected lengthy stay has left him battling financially.

“I was only planning to be in Morocco for seven days I have roughly spent four times what I was planning to spend. It is stretching my salary as I have to effectively pay two rents. I have an apartment at home, as well as an apartment here (that I got off Airbnb).”

He can no longer save money. “Due to how Covid-19 is affecting economies and companies across the world, I fear losing my job. So, it is more important than ever to save as much as possible.”

Several other South Africans are also battling, some with existing medical conditions such as diabetes, and are desperate to return home.

Life under lockdown in Morocco has also been restrictive, he says. “The lockdown here is very strict. Everyone has to carry a special authorisation form wherever they go. Mine only allows me to do three things: shop for groceries; buy medical supplies and go to the airport when the Moroccan airspace opens up.”

A curfew is in place after 6pm, which was extended to 7pm during Ramadaan.

“No one is allowed outside. You can also be arrested or fined if you are caught outside at any time without a mask.

“The fact that there is little or no English makes it especially lonely and difficult at times.

“I’m fortunate in that I know a Moroccan family (my fiancé’s family) who have been supplying me with food and other supplies.

“Other South Africans are not so fortunate. They are on their own, and they have to struggle through the language barrier, extremely difficult economic circumstances, and chronic medication that is running out.”

The South Africans were reliant on the goodwill of Moroccans.

Moabelo says he and other South Africans have contacted the Department of International Relations often, without much success.

“We’ve followed all the channels we’ve been asked to follow, and sent emails to all of the email addresses we were asked to connect with but we still have not found a way out Recently, we have started seeing some movement in the department circles regarding our imminent repatriation, but it’s too early to tell what will happen.”

Should the department be unable to repatriate them soon, Moabelo says they will be looking at other options

to get them home, including emergency evacuation flights through chartered companies.

“As you can imagine, people’s finances are extremely stretched after spending six weeks in Morocco. At most, many of the people can contribute between R10 000 to R20 000 for a single flight home. We hope we can raise the balance of the funds through donors or crowdfunding.”

The group has also had no assistance from the Moroccan government.

But Moabelo hopes to be reunited with his family and friends soon.

“Being under lockdown in a foreign country without family and friends is the toughest part. If anything happens to us we have very little support.

“Some of the people here have missed the births of their grandchildren, and are not able to lean on the assistance of their children.”

Meanwhile, Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said: “There are plans to repatriate all South Africans stuck in countries around the world, including those in Morocco.”

He explained this was a long and difficult process as there are many South Africans stuck abroad and that many of the countries they are in are undergoing their own lockdown measures.

He urged all those who wish to return to the country to report their whereabouts to the departments, as they are not always aware of their circumstances.

Saturday Star

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