The country estimated the total number of Moroccans stranded abroad at more than 32,000 people.
Rabat – Morocco is set to begin repatriation operations for Moroccans stranded in Spain within the next 48 hours, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans residing abroad, Nasser Bourita, announced in Rabat on Tuesday.
Speaking before the upper house of Parliament, the Moroccan minister stressed that the repatriation will start with those who have been stranded in the region of Algeciras, then Madrid, Catalonia, and the Basque region.
After bringing home those stranded in Spain, Morocco will move to repatriate Moroccan tourists stranded in Turkey, the Gulf countries, France, as well as African countries.
Bourita said preparations are well underway for the return of Moroccans stranded in these countries because of the measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a well-defined timetable.
Moroccan authorities are committed to carrying out the repatriation of these citizens according to a global and responsible approach reconciling their guaranteed right to return, the requirements of the epidemiological situation, and the imperative of care for returnees and their support in the best conditions, he said.
The Moroccan minister elaborated that the repatriation will first prioritize Moroccans who went abroad on short tourist visas, as well as those who are in a precarious financial situation or suffer from serious health conditions.
He said the operation will not include those who left the country to seek permanent residency or employment abroad.
Bourita also pointed out that, unlike other countries, Morocco will bear all the costs related to the repatriation operations. The high cost of repatriation flights has left many people stranded across the world in spite of their countries’ allowance for repatriations, a barrier Morocco is acting to prevent.
The minister said that Moroccan embassies and consulates have provided financial assistance to over 6,358 Moroccans stranded abroad, as well as medical, administrative, and legal support.
The repatriation controversy
The issue of Moroccans stranded abroad has been making international headlines after thousands of Moroccans shared their experience online.
Some of the stranded citizens said the country has abandoned and forgotten about them, but insisted they want to come back home and expressed willingness to undergo quarantine as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19.
Morocco’s government has vowed to repatriate the stranded citizens, but such a decision needs “rigorous” and meticulous planning, Bourita said on April 23.
The government has been receiving heavy criticism from the media and stranded citizens for actions to assist foreign tourists.
After suspending all international travel in mid-March, Moroccan authorities worked with several foreign governments to facilitate the repatriation of foreign nationals stranded in Morocco.
Morocco has so far only repatriated nationals stranded in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as Algeria. The repatriations did not occur until these Moroccans had been stranded for over two months.
It remains to be seen whether the country will announce imminent plans to repatriate other Moroccans stranded elsewhere across the globe.
The government is set to announce its lockdown lifting strategy on Wednesday, June 10.
It is still unsure whether the government will announce the lifting of its confinement measures after several news reports quoted “official sources” claiming the country would extend the lockdown for a third time.