International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor says her department is facing serious challenges in its efforts to facilitate the repatriation of South Africans who are stranded in other countries in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pandor says despite the challenges, however, governments around the world have been cooperating with them.
The Minister says the government has so far repatriated 163 South Africans and more of them will be returning from different parts of the world from Monday.
Pandor says 3 639 South Africans stranded abroad have requested to come back home. Most of them have been stranded because of lockdowns and almost complete suspension of flights in various countries.
She says, “A large part of the globe is under lockdown, that is the first difficulty and the number of people who require help are not close to airports, it’s not easy to communicate with them. Many of them had no plans to stay as long as they have in the countries in which they are located and so they don’t have accommodation. They are having to ask local citizens to help them, some were at airports when the lockdown was announced.”
South African stranded in Thailand shares her story
According to Home Away from Home, an organization formed by a group of South African volunteers, the situation for more than 2 000 citizens in 130 countries, remains dire.
32-year-old Monja Brink, formerly from Cape Town, says 2020 was meant to be a fresh start in Thailand. However, COVID-19 has left her jobless and homeless in a foreign country with little money to survive each day.
“Some of us like myself, came here to work, earn a living and start a new life. With corona, companies have closed and millions have lost their jobs, I am one of them. I packed up everything in South Africa, sold everything, left my partner behind – came here for an amazing job opportunity, within 3.5 weeks, all those dreams were crushed,” says Brink.
Meanwhile, the impact of the South African lockdown has left Brink helpless and stranded at the Bangkok International Airport.
She has secured a plane ticket, with the help of borrowed money however, the grounding of flights means she is unable to return home.
“At the moment I am in an airport motel. Being stuck in a foreign country where you don’t understand their language, food is an issue, it is terrifying. Not knowing when you are going home, I have no work so I have nowhere to turn. No one to help me. I am on chronic medication when that runs out – I will not be able to pay for it. To be here alone, and not know that my country wants me to be safe and be at home.”