Hundreds of South African Passport Holders Who Live Abroad Are Being Prevented From Leaving SA.


South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has come under fire after hundreds of SA passport holders who have permanent residency in other countries were left stranded at OR Tambo on Wednesday.

According to one of the would-be passengers, the Qatar Airways repatriation flight was scheduled to leave for Hong Kong via Doha. She along with 200 others and 40 Chinese nationals claim they have all their documents in place along with permission from the Hong Kong government to return.

Expats with SA Passports wanting to board a flight home to their families in Hong Kong fear losing their jobs.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) has published a list of countries that accept permanent residents -who are not citizens- back into the country.

Speaking to Vannie Kaap, Holly, a South African currently living and working in Dublin, Ireland, says she has been in contact with the Irish embassy who is dealing with DIRCO on her behalf but no word yet as to when she’ll be able to return to work in Dublin. She is one of many SA Passport holders who fear losing their jobs if they are not allowed to return home soon. Many -who were here on holiday or business- have not seen their family for months, due to the closure of South Africa’s borders.

The expatriation flights currently only leave from OR Tambo, therefore ex-pats who have already booked and paid for these flights still incur extra costs to get to the airport from other provinces across SA. Not being allowed to board these flights, means many end up being stranded in Johannesburg.

In an automated email from DIRCO received by some of those South Africans wishing to return home to their families, DIRCO alledgly states that they are not mandated to grant permission for South African nationals to leave.

A section of the Out-of-Office email response that was shared to VK News reads:
“The DIRCO is not repatriating South Africans out of the country for any reason. You may try the relevant Embassy in South Africa to inquire if they are repatriating their citizens to their respective country and check your visa status and if you qualify to be repatriated. At this point in time the info that DIRCO has, is that it is the Department of Home Affairs that should give SA nationals permission to leave SA. DIRCO is not accepting such applications as the mandate to grant such permission does not lie with DIRCO.”

Vannie Kaap News has reached out to DIRCO but has not received feedback at the time of publishing.

While the ex-pat fight continues, some 200+ South Africans were expected to land in South Africa on Wednesday night. This, after they were left stranded at Doha Hamad International Airport on Tuesday when their Qatar Airways flight, was turned back on the runway.

The reason for the delay was reportedly due to problems on the South African side in securing enough quarantine space for the passengers when they land back home. The other Qatar Airways repatriation flights were allegedly cancelled, meaning many South Africans who travelled to Doha -on their own expense- from other countries, were left stranded at the airport.

DIRCO spokesperson, Clayson Monyela told Cape Talk processes have now been set in motion to prevent a repetition of the incident with any other South Africa-bound flight.

DIRCO says it’s making progress with bringing South Africans stuck abroad since the start of the lockdown home, however, according to social media comments and those whom VK News has interviewed, it seems the reverse repatriation process for South African passport holders is not going as well.


  1. Absolutely shocking this government red tape mess that is affecting people’s lives so negatively.Government decisions during this Corona virus beggars belief.Incompetenc of the highest order.

  2. I am one of those people and it’s devastating. I am in danger of losing my job and have not seen my husband or child for 7 weeks. What is the point of being kept here when my potential to earn a living here is almost zero, never mind the cost of bringing my family home. I don’t understand the logic. We are paying for our own tickets (32000zar) and leaving this reducing the potential drain on the countries infrastructure. I just don’t understand the rule. Furthermore, I personally know two South African passport holders that were allowed to leave on a british airways flight with only residency cards. Why the change in policy?

  3. NATJOINTS, unfortunately have no such “intelligence “, as indicated in their title. They are destroying lives and tearing families apart by having the border shut indefinitely to those legally able and required to return to their workplaces abroad.

  4. Please let us go home. We have been stuck here for weeks and just want to get back to our jobs and home in Hong Kong.

  5. Dear members of the press, members of the government and anyone with ears, eyes and a heart.

    I wish to shed light on a situation which has gone under the radar and is causing stress and confusion to thousands. While all the talk has been on the repatriation flights bringing the poor stranded South Africans abroad home, not much information has been brought up regarding those that were going to be taking these Qatar airlines flights back from Johannesburg to Doha.

    My name is Warwick English, I am one of 220 Hong Kong residents who are stuck in South Africa trying to get back to our homes and lives in Hong Kong. We are well aware of lockdown and of restrictions and the decisive action that was taken by the government to buy South Africa the time to prepare for the storm on the horizon.

    What we are not so sure on is the reason why our group, and the rest of those living and working abroad, with relevant documentation from respective countries and approval from those countries for us to return, are not being allowed to do so. We have no place in South Africa, quite literally, we do not live here, we do not work here, our children do not attend school here, we don’t even have vehicles here. What reason is there to hold us all here against our will?

    In our group there are families who have been split apart, there are newborn children without clothes or toys, there are cancer patients who are now away from primary medical care, there are people who are about to lose their jobs and many of which have employees who will also be affected by this. We are all paying rent in the most expensive country in the world and having to pay for accommodation here on top of that. But most of all, there are 220 people who are being denied their right to abode, we miss our homes! Try explaining to a two year old that we can’t go home, that we can’t go visit her best friend, that she can’t go back to her play school and all she keeps responding is why…? why…? I don’t know why, that’s what baffles me. What good does it do in keeping us here? More people in South Africa to police seems an absurd approach.

    Our group of Hong Kong residents is just one, one of many groups of hundreds if not thousands of people who are all desperate and heartbroken and confused.

    Qatar airlines has had discussions with the government and after having all their flights cancelled yesterday they have since reinstated flights however they have made it very clear that those flights from Johannesburg to Qatar are not for South African passport holders, regardless of what work permit they hold, what duel citizenship they have, where they live and what they do. The message is clear, no foreign passport, no exit.

    At least this message is clear this time, five members of our group attempted to board a flight on the 5th of May having followed all instructions given to them by the Hong Kong immigration department. The Qatar Airlines bus they were on was then stopped outside the airport and South African passport holders were told to stay on board as Military and Police staff got on the bus and yelled at them, while they sat in fear holding onto their infants for dear life. They were left on the side of the road outside the airport to make their own way in the dark, after curfew, to somewhere, because they don’t live here.

    Our group is now in the process of seeking legal advise as we have exhausted every other avenue and cannot find a reason or get in touch with anyone who will take the time to explain to us why we are not allowed to leave. All other South African citizens were given seven days to return to their place of work, we however were not and now run the risk of having no work whilst having to pay school fees and rent in one of the top most expensive countries in the world.

    Your kind attention to our plight is graciously appreciated.

    Warwick English

    On behalf of the Stranded Hong Kong residents

    +852974220442 (Whatsapp)
    0790138439 (South African number)

  6. I’m German, my boyfriend South African, I’m 39 weeks pregnant. My partner’s Visa (Family Re-Unification) wasn’t approved on time so we weren’t able to fly back home. So we decided we stay together, wait for our baby to be born, and fly back to Germany when our little one is old enough for traveling to return to my Job. His Visa is approved now, Baby’s Due Date is in a couple of days. If he cant fly out with me soon, it would be a disaster, newborn baby, no jobs here & no chance to return together to my country & job (because we aren’t allowed to leave SA?)

    Who do we approach? How do we fight for our right to return home together as a family? This is unbelievable!!

  7. The President runs a renegade government with incompetent ministers.
    Can he not intervene.
    This government is using this crisis to gather votes.
    Shame on you Cyril.
    You dont deserve the respect of international relations.

  8. Lots of countries have exactly the same law. It’s nit specific to South Africa.

  9. Warwick, thank you for your in-depth summary of the situation. One thing that was not 100% clear to me is this comment:

    “…they have made it very clear that those flights from Johannesburg to Qatar are not for South African passport holders, regardless of ….what duel citizenship they have… The message is clear, no foreign passport, no exit.”

    If one has another passport can one travel? The “what duel citizenship” comment seems to imply that even if you have a foreign passport you can’t fly but the “no foreign passport, no exit” seems to imply that if you have a foreign passport you can fly.

    Grateful for any clarification you can provide for dual passport holders that are using their foreign passport to get back to the foreign country they live in.

    Thank you and all the best for getting home!

    p.s. if anyone else knows the answer please feel free to chime in

Comments are closed.