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PLEAS for DIRCO to Help Repatriate South Africans, and Urgent Court Application Issued

Source: News 24, 04/06/2020

The organisation says those in quarantine have no formal channel
through which to address issues quickly and effectively.
“Slow repatriation processes, poor communication and late testing
for the virus cause them additional unnecessary distress,” says
AfriForum.
While over 5,000 South Africans HAVE been successfully repatriated
since Lockdown began, there are at least 3,000 more (according to
DIRCO’s Director-General) who are desperate to get home ` running
out of money, medicine and hope. There are also thousands more who
are Locked in South Africa, as desperate to leave and return to
their normal country of residence and their jobs.
SAPeople has been inundated with messages that range from
heartbreaking (“please help, my mother is dying”) to frustrated
and desperate (“we have tried to catch four planes from OR Tambo
now”). They all come from South Africans in and out of SA who are
being thwarted in their attempts to return home or return to work
abroad… all stumbling at the same hurdle, they say ` the SA
government… specifically, the Department of International
Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Home Affairs.
While we know that the guys in the DIRCO 24-hour centre have been
working around the clock (and have been extremely helpful each
time we’ve called on behalf of someone desperate), and that Dirco
has helped facilitate the repatriation of thousands of South
Africans back to SA… there unfortunately seems to have been some
flaws and hold-ups, mixed messages, unnecessary red tape and a
lack of communication between Dirco, border control staff and
airlines.
It’s not an ordinary situation and everybody is learning as they
go along. But sometimes there appears to be no common sense,
compassion or a simple check of facts. Passengers that are told by
Dirco that they can fly, arrive at the airport to be turned away.
A father and his 12-year-old are refused entry onto a plane with
the rest of their family because they are accused of having
recently visited a high-risk Covid area (they hadn’t travelled in
over a year, but due to some ineptitude somewhere, their names
were added to a no-go list).
For many South Africans their spirits are broken. This morning an
exasperated Stephen Geldenhuys, who is an admin of the FB group
South African Offshore Workers Unite (join here), said: “I have
noticed that there has been a lot of talk from government but no
proper structure in place or any sort of proper plan to get Oil
and Gas contractors back to work… it seems like their left hand is
not aware of what the right hand is doing which is making it very
difficult to get back to work.
“Some contractors have made it to JHB via vehicle to fly out on a
chartered flight, just to arrive and find out they not able to
fly. South African Government is making it virtually impossible
for us to earn a living, they are the prime reason why we find
ourselves unemployed with the possibility of losing everything
including our ability to provide for our families. All this while
they earn full salaries. It’s a shame and I’m embarrassed to call
myself South African, while my co-workers from other countries are
able to travel from Europe to their place of employment with no
problem.”
The South African oil and gas workers have set up a petition on
Change.org here.
DA Calls for DIRCO to work with Embassies to bring stranded South
Africans home
Today, the DA’s Shadow Minister of International Relations and
Coperation, Darren Bergman, who has himself spearheaded efforts `
including multiple WhatsApp groups around the world ` to get South
Africans where they need to be, issued a statement calling on
DIRCO to work with embassies to bring stranded South Africans
home, particularly from Namibia and Mozambique where they have
been stranded for weeks.
Bergman said the DA is putting increased pressure on DIRCO to work
with its embassies where staff “seem to have lost any power to
instruct our border gates to allow safe passage for these
citizens”.
He said there’s still “great uncertainty” as to why these South
Africans who are stuck in the country’s neighbouring countries
have not been able to come home.
Shortage of quarantine facilities?
“Speculation is rife that it may be due to a shortage of
quarantine facilities or inefficiencies at Home Affairs,” says
Bergman.
“The DA calls on DIRCO to immediately engage with embassies and
the Departments of Health, Home Affairs and Public Works to ensure
and facilitate the safe passage of those South Africans who need
to return home. We urge them to find safe and immediate solutions
around these issues even if it means self-quarantine or quarantine
sites further into the country.
“What cannot happen is that school children, required to return in
the foundation and essential years are denied their rights to an
education and that people left vulnerable due to a shortage of
funds or medicines are locked out of their country due to a lack
of action by DIRCO.”
According to the DIRCO Director-General there are still over 3,000
South Africans needing to return to SA. Just in the past 24 hours
SAPeople has received desperate messages from people in Saudi
Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and other parts of the
world ` many complaining that Dirco is not answering their calls.
Emails to embassies are also being ignored, some say.
Louise Esterhuizen says: “DIRCO is of NO help. They do not answer
their phones. I even called the DIRCO Media Liaison Officer on his
cellphone. He knows nothing and cannot even direct me to someone
that can help. My husband left Oman two days ago. He is now stuck
in Frankfurt because of his connecting flight being cancelled
twice now. He has done all the DIRCO paperwork.”
Of those stranded closer by in Mozambique and Namibia, Bergman
says “when we have low hanging fruits just within our reach we
seem reluctant to stretch out to apply ourselves.
“The DA call for an immediate solution that should not be delayed
any further than this weekend.”
Quarantine conditions
According to Sue-Ann de Wet, who manages AfriForum’s contact with
South Africans abroad, AfriForum was obliged this morning to
urgently seek legal assistance for a repatriated South African in
need of COVID-unrelated medical assistance, as the quarantine
facility where he is at present, had not responded to his
requests.
“These problems are constantly emerging and could be prevented if
people, upon their arrival in the country, had the choice to
isolate themselves for 14 days,” she says.
Another issue that is addressed in the papers is the new
regulation that even allows for people to be compelled to pay for
their quarantine.
“It is absurd that repatriated citizens are forced into quarantine
facilities against their will and on top of this, have to pay for
it. Many people already experience financial distress after
waiting for repatriation opportunities for weeks, and they will
certainly not be able to pay expenses for an unnecessary service,
while secure self-isolation options are available at their own
homes,” adds Bailey.
The Ministers of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs,
DIRCO and Health; as well as the Director General of Health are
included as respondents in the case.
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