So far, Morocco has repatriated just over 3,100 citizens stranded abroad.
Rabat – Morocco is set to repatriate 5,000 to 6,000 Moroccans stranded abroad every week and the repatriation operations will reach their maximal frequency this week, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita has announced.
On Sunday, June 21, Morocco entered the third phase of its repatriation strategy, Bourita said before the House of Representatives on June 22.
During this phase, Morocco’s flag carrier Royal Air Maroc will operate approximately 30 weekly flights to repatriate Moroccans stranded in many countries across the world.
The airplanes will also start filling 100% of their passenger capacity, Bourita announced. The previous repatriation flights only used two-thirds of available seats.
Between June 21-27, 30 repatriations flights will arrive in Morocco, bringing home citizens stranded in 17 countries.
The operation is set to benefit 4,644 Moroccans stranded abroad. The figure represents an increase compared to the 3,151 Moroccans repatriated between May 15—the date of the first repatriation operation from Ceuta and Melilla—and June 21.
This week’s repatriation flights are set to boost the total number of repatriated citizens to over 7,800.
The following week, between June 28 and July 4, the repatriation process will benefit Moroccans stranded in Germany, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf countries, among others.
Regarding Moroccans stranded in faraway countries, such as Far-East Asia or Latin America, or countries with a low number of stranded nationals, the Moroccan government is studying the possibility of gathering them in an international hub, such as Istanbul, Doha, or Paris, before bringing them home together aboard Moroccan flights.
Morocco will also start using the planes that usually arrive empty, with the purpose of repatriating foreign tourists stranded in the North African country, to repatriate its own citizens. Such operations would mainly benefit Moroccans stranded in the US or Canada.
The delay before the announcement of the repatriation strategy was due to the complexity of the situation and the challenges it poses, Bourita explained.
According to the minister, Morocco was not able to repatriate its citizens stranded abroad until it had the ability to guarantee their safety.
“There is no bargaining with the lives of Moroccans. We had to make sure the repatriation process would not have any negative repercussions ,” he said.
“All decisions linked to the management of COVID-19 had side effects, such as the lockdown and the closure of international borders. However, when it comes to saving the lives of Moroccans, there is no room for errors,” Bourita added.
The Moroccan government began planning for the repatriation of citizens stranded abroad since the border closure on March 15, Bourita revealed.
However, between mid-March and late-April, there was “no chance to repatriate Moroccans” because of the epidemiological situation in the country.
During this first phase, the government’s priority was to allocate all the resources available to protect its residents and to purchase the necessary equipment to tackle the domestic outbreak.
“Repatriation required logistical and epidemiological conditions that were not available at the time,” Bourita said.
“Was it logical to repatriate citizens while the [COVID-19] fatality rate is above 7%? … While the stock of face masks was insufficient? … While the stock of COVID-19 test kits was only able to cover three days? … While only two laboratories were equipped to conduct COVID-19 tests?” the minister asked rhetorically.
According to Bourita, repatriating citizens during that period would have been a gamble. Therefore, the main objective of the first phase was to provide support for Moroccans stranded abroad and to prepare the necessary local conditions for their eventual return.
Moroccan diplomatic missions across the world received 150,360 calls for help and provided financial aid to 7,106 Moroccans, as well as administrative support for thousands more, Bourita revealed.
The minister also thanked the staff of Moroccan embassies and consulates for their work, revealing that 10 Moroccan diplomats caught COVID-19.
The second phase of the repatriation strategy, which began in May, was made possible because Morocco’s epidemiological situation improved.
The country had a sufficient stock of face masks and COVID-19 test kits, as well as positive epidemiological indicators, such as low fatality and infection rates, Bourita explained.
The second phase of operations benefited Moroccans stranded in Spain and Algeria because they were some of the most vulnerable, the minister added.
The lists of Moroccans who benefited from repatriation flights between May and June were based on precariousness, vulnerability, and legal situation.