The ministry said it is aware that stranded tourists are desperate to return home, but emphasized that the repatriation process should be “well prepared.”
Rabat – The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified on April 21 the status of potential repatriation operations for Moroccans stranded abroad, following mounting public concern.
The ministry said that it spared no efforts to help Moroccan nationals who are stranded abroad due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown and closed borders.
During a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani estimated the number of stranded tourists abroad at 21,000.
Last week, the minister delegate in charge of Moroccans residing abroad (MREs), Nezha El Ouafi, estimated the number of Moroccans stranded worldwide at 18,000.
El Othmani acknowledged that the stranded Moroccans are living in “difficult conditions.”
He added that the group of stranded nationals includes high-ranking officials and parliamentarians.
The government has been receiving scores of inquiries from MPs and Moroccans who are concerned about their families stuck abroad due to closed borders.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received criticism for not having repatriated stranded nationals, whereas government authorities have been assisting a number of countries to retrieve their citizens from Morocco.
In response, the ministry said that it instructed all of the country’s representations abroad to take care of the stranded tourists and assist them through the current situation.
“Contacts are also made with the authorities to extend the stays of tourists whose visas have expired,” the ministry wrote in its new statement.
Regarding the repatriation option, the ministry said the process should be well-prepared.
“The Ministry is aware of this and remains mobilized in the face of the current situation, which is exceptional and must be managed in an exceptional manner,” the statement said.
The ministry argued the appropriate conditions for repatriating citizens “must be met so that we can meet this challenge, that our compatriots can return to their families and that the health security of all Moroccans, without exception, is preserved or guaranteed.”
The statement remarked that everyone shares the wish that the country will overcome the COVID-19 circumstances and revert to normal life so that “everyone can return to their home.”
Morocco suspended international flights and maritime travel starting March 15 before imposing a nationwide lockdown on March 20.
The measures are part of the country’s intensified campaign to address and contain the COVID-19 pandemic.