Minister Naledi Pandor: Repatriation of South Africans stranded abroad during COVID-19 Coronavirus lockdown

16 Apr 2020

Speaking notes for the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor on the repatriation of South Africans stranded abroad

Fellow South Africans.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to many countries closing their borders and instituting lockdowns, has left many citizens stranded across the globe.

Understandably, our efforts to bring back South Africans stranded abroad have generated substantial public interest.

Repatriation process of South Africans stranded abroad.

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Declaration by President Cyril Ramaphosa of a State of Disaster, a total of 3639 South Africans have indicated that they are stranded abroad and require assistance to return home to South Africa.

To ensure the return of South Africans stranded abroad, we have entered into discussions with the South African Airways (SAA) to use the return legs to bring back stranded South Africans across the globe.

To date, we are pleased that over 600 South Africans have returned home. In line with the regulations, they are under quarantine in various sites.

Repatriation on SAA Flights chartered by Germany, Brazil and Canada

(a) On 08 April, 66 South Africans were repatriated from Brazil on a South African Airways Flight.

(b) On the same day, SAA flew 54 of our compatriots from Germany. 39 were from Germany; 14 from Portugal; 10 from Ireland; 3 from Nepal; 1 from Italy;

(c) On 12 April, a South African Airways flight from Brussels, to Johannesburg with a stop-over in Lagos repatriated 119 South Africans.

(d) On the same day, another SAA flight from London to Cape Town repatriated 201 South Africans.

(e) On 13 April, a South African Airways flight from Ghana to Johannesburg repatriated 62 of our nationals.

Repatriation on Private Chartered flights by individuals and companies

(f)  On 10 April, 4 South Africans arrived from Afghanistan.

(g) On the same day, 49 more South Africans landed in Cape Town from Namibia.

(h) On 11 April, 41 South Africans were repatriated from the Maldives.

We are aware of the 34 South Africans stranded in Lima. Through our Ambassador in Peru, we are in regular contact with the Group and all efforts are being made to try to get them back home.

From Asia

(a) A further 307 Citizens are stranded in Thailand as well as about 140 in Bali, Indonesia. Through our missions in these countries, we are trying to find solutions to bring them home.

(b) The private charter collecting stranded South Africans from Pakistan will depart South Africa as soon as the Pakistani Government grants approval for the flight to land and board the passengers. The High Commission in Islamabad is in continuous contact with the Foreign Ministry to facilitate the approval processes.

We have also had to conduct emergency Medical Evacuations from Zimbabwe and Namibia. We assisted a family with the repatriation of the mortal remains of their loved one in Turkey.

A total of 200 South Africans have crossed by land into South Africa and have been quarantined. A further 400 nationals are due to cross into South Africa in the coming days, as soon as their citizenship has been verified and other due processes are completed.

I wish to, once more, assure all South African that every effort is being made to repatriate as many South Africans utilizing the flights repatriating foreign Nationals and other means that might be available as we discuss with other nations.

Once more, I make a special appeal to South Africans who are not necessarily distressed but would want to come back home to remain where they are, as these lockdowns are meant to minimise the movement of the people to curb the spread of the COVID – 19 pandemic.

Lastly, it is essential to mention that the government did not budget for this mission. Therefore, our repatriation efforts are mainly focussing on those who already have return tickets back to South Africa, the students who have been asked to vacate their residences, the elderly and the sick.

Allow me to also thank SASOL which has availed over a million litres of jet fuel, enough to power an A340-600 aircraft for five long haul trips. This will go a long way in assisting us to bring our citizens home and for the transportation of urgent medical supplies.

I thank you.