Airport officials carried the baggage of South Africans who were repatriated this week.
Airport officials carried the baggage of South Africans who were repatriated this week.

SAA returns 600 citizens from Asia after weeks stuck abroad

By Nathan Craig Time of article published May 11, 2020

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Durban - Hundreds of citizens spent their first weekend back in the country, after being stranded abroad for months.

On Friday, about 600 citizens were repatriated from countries in the Middle East and Asia, on SAA flights.

The flights cost R15100 per person and landed in Joburg in the early hours of Friday evening.

Upon arrival, there they were given supervised accommodation at the Peermont Mondior Hotel, at Emperors Palace, where they would spend the next two weeks under quarantined observation. Then they would be allowed to travel to their homes across the country.

Yashtha Lutchminarain and her fiancé Visham Maharaj, both from Tongaat, were left stranded for about two months in Bangkok, Thailand.

“We were desperate to come home. We were running out of chronic medication, funds and accommodation. This was our first trip overseas and it cost us R18000 per person. It was a holiday package with activities and had return tickets, which we never got to use. We were just stuck in a hotel room.”

Lutchminarain said they tried to get refunds for what they missed out on but found no joy.

They also attempted to find alternative measures to come home.

“We looked at various repatriation flights which cost in the tens of thousands, which we didn’t have, but we were desperate to come home. It was crushing to see and hear that other people were being repatriated and not us. We tried our best, just like so many others, to survive and come home.”

Even though she was not back in her home province, she was grateful to be back in the country.

“Now we have to just wait out our time until we can return to Durban and to our families. But for now, we have a roof over our heads and we are getting fed. It is a step in the right direction. I am just so excited to be able to see my family.”

Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation Lunga Ngqengelele said since President Cyril Ramaphosa implemented the lockdown on March 27, they had facilitated the repatriation of nearly 3400 of the initially indicated 3637 citizens stranded abroad.

“The department wishes to assure all those who are still stranded abroad that it is doing everything it can to find ways to bring them home. The repatriation of citizens is a humanitarian mission, which is coordinated by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures (NATJOINTS) and the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC).”

He said repatriation efforts required co-operation between embassies and were compliant with regulations in put in place by the NCCC, and other countries which have implemented their own regulations.

Sunday Tribune

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