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.
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.