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Some South Africans repatriated from Wuhan now want to go back

Source: News24, 01/01/1970

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor
told journalists during a virtual media briefing that Dirco had
spent far less than it had anticipated on the project.
She said while Dirco was continuing to repatriate South Africans
stranded across the globe, it was not willing to help those it had
brought back home, who now wished to return to countries they had
been repatriated from during the lockdown.
“In that first group from Wuhan, some wish to return, and we said
to them it cannot be at the cost of government,” Pandor said.
“Some of them are government-sponsored students. We have said
their sponsors must address it, this is something Dirco can’t help
with,” she added.
She said government had no means to facilitate those who wanted to
return to the country for a short while.
“We are not assisting you to come back for a short period then
return to the country where we repatriated you from,” said Pandor.
Not more than R10m spent on repatriating citizens
Pandor said her department had estimated it would require R90
million. However, no more than R10 million had been spent, which
she credited mostly on companies who reached out to assist
government.
“We have had very good support from the private sector, with
provision of jet fuel from Sasol, which has helped with a number
of a million of litres,” Pandor said.
She added many of those repatriated had been able to cover their
own travel costs, as most already had flight tickets but were left
stranded.
“Most were ticket holders, and we were able to transfer their
tickets to airlines available to provide transportation.”
Pandor said in some cases citizens were able to hitch rides at a
reduced cost from cargo planes either coming to collect or drop
off goods in South Africa.
Can’t compel Saudi Arabia to open borders
The minister also said the country was aware of the plight of
South Africans who were in the country when the lockdown was
implemented in March, who need to return to their jobs and
families in other countries.
Pandor said her department was in discussion with numerous
governments, as well as the departments of home affairs and
transport, to facilitate the safe return of those South Africans
to those countries.
When asked if there were countries not willing to discuss allowing
non-citizens to return, Pandor said Saudi Arabia was not willing
to open its borders.
She also said there had been some challenges with the United Arab
Emirates.
“You can’t compel countries to take back persons. They will not
open borders because they are compelled to do so by the South
African government,” Pandor said.
“If a government says it’s in a deep lockdown, we cannot compel
it,” she continued.
The minister said offenders who were recently released from
Brazilian prisons for drug trafficking, were not part of the
category of citizens being focused on at the moment, referring
their case to the South African mission in that country.
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