The operation is expected to be the first in a series of flights between Morocco and Turkey to bring back Moroccans stranded in the transcontinental country.
Rabat – Morocco has repatriated 313 Moroccan nationals from Turkey, including babies and children. The group arrived in Tetouan, northern Morocco, on Tuesday, June 16.
The previously-stranded Moroccans returned to Morocco on board three airplanes operated by Royal Air Maroc. The flights departed from Istanbul Airport and landed in Tetouan’s Saniat R’mel Airport.
The three planes respectively carried 102, 104, and 107 Moroccans who had been stranded in different cities in Turkey. The repatriated nationals had spent more than three months in Turkey due to Morocco’s border closure on March 15.
The Moroccan Consulate in Istanbul made the list of passengers who benefited from repatriation based on “humanitarian criteria.”
The operation followed a strict health protocol to avoid potential COVID-19 infections, with passengers wearing face masks and maintaining safe distances from each other.
After their arrival, the repatriated citizens boarded buses that transported them to hotels and tourist resorts located in Tamuda Bay, approximately 20 kilometers north of Tetouan, where they are set to undergo a nine-day quarantine period, with regular health monitoring and screening tests for COVID-19.
Airports are ready to welcome Moroccans
The repatriation operation was organized in close coordination between local authorities, the National Security, the Royal Gendarmerie, customs services, and medical officials from the Ministry of Health, said Hassan Limouni, the director of Tetouan airport.
The National Airport Office has put in place a plan to resume airport activities under the best conditions, to protect passengers, and to restore confidence, Limouni added.
The measures implemented at Moroccan airports include providing disinfection tools, separating lobbies, and installing plexiglass barriers in all interaction spots, such as check-in desks, information desks, and boarding rooms, the director revealed.
Airport staff have also benefited from training sessions to reduce health risks, speed up customs, and administrative procedures, and ensure compliance with social distancing, Limouni continued.
Meanwhile, the provincial health delegate in Tetouan, Abdenour Boulaich, said his department helped install equipment at the local airport to welcome repatriated Moroccans, including thermal imaging cameras.
The repatriated citizens will be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival and every day during their quarantine period before they can join their families, he added.
Repatriation process goes according to plan
Saniat R’mel Airport has so far received a dozen Moroccan repatriation flights, mainly due to its proximity to several beach towns and tourist resorts where repatriated citizens can spend the quarantine period.
Between June 10-15, Morocco repatriated over 1,000 citizens from Spain. While nine flights from Malaga, Madrid, and Barcelona landed in Tetouan, a 10th flight from the Canary Islands landed in Laayoune, southern Morocco.
Prior to the repatriation of Moroccans stranded in Spain, Morocco had arranged the repatriation of citizens stranded in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, northern Morocco, as well as Algeria.
Tuesday’s flights are expected to be the first in a series of return journeys between Morocco and Turkey to bring back Moroccans stranded in the transcontinental country.
The repatriation process is ongoing, according to a national strategy revealed on June 9 by Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita.
Speaking before the House of Councillors, Bourita explained that Morocco will begin repatriations by bringing back Moroccans stranded in Spain, followed by Turkey, the Gulf countries, France, and African states.
According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, more than 33,000 Moroccans stranded abroad have contacted Moroccan embassies and consulates across the world, expressing their demands for repatriation.