Nearly 1,500 South Africans 'in need of assistance' overseas: Naledi Pandor
The government is moving to help with the repatriation of hundreds of citizens who have been stranded across the globe as a result of worldwide coronavirus travel restrictions.
Minister of international relations and co-operation Naledi Pandor told the media on Tuesday that the department’s missions abroad were working to assist those who wanted or needed to come home but were unable to do so.
Current data, she said, shows there are at least 1,471 South Africans who are in need of assistance. Of those, 723 are students, 204 are workers, 224 are tourists and 320 have not disclosed the nature of their visits abroad.
Pandor said government would look to repatriate citizens, those with permanent residency and those who work for international organisations based in SA.
“I have directed priority be given to those stranded at airports sleeping on the floor with no means for food, no funds or accommodation, the elderly and those who are infirm. Our missions wherever possible will render consular services in the context of lockdown or emergency regulations. We are negotiating with governments to facilitate the movements of stranded citizens of our country,” the minister said.
“Given the difficulties associated with travel restrictions we appeal to those who can afford to return to do so at their own cost. Some have started organising themselves into groups and have approached the department to ensure their safe passage home. Others are students whose accommodation in crowded dormitories forces them to come home.”
Some South Africans are exploring the use of private charters, and Pandor has asked that South African authorities in those countries help to make that process easier.
“Some South Africans have explored options such as arranging private charter flights to SA. This can be done in co-operation with their travel insurance companies, their sponsors or in groups with other citizens in the same country. In such cases, we have requested our missions to assist with obtaining flight clearances for chartered flights in the host countries and to get permission to depart on such chartered flights.”
Pandor made an appeal to those who are not in distress to stay where they are wherever possible for the duration of the lockdown in their departing country and SA.
“Our missions and head office will continue to be in touch with all South Africans until they are comfortably reunited with their families. The regulations require all incoming nationals, irrespective of risk category, to undergo screening, testing and to be quarantined.”
Those who are stranded and needing to make contact with the South African government can do so using the following channels: by phone on +27 12 351 1754 and +27 12 351 1756, and by e-mail at Cicc1@dirco.gov.za and Cicc2@dirco.gov.za.
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