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More than 5,000 South Africans stranded abroad brought home, says Pandor

International Relations and Cooperation Minister (Dirco) Naledi Pandor said in the coming days and weeks the mission would continue to bring nationals home.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor at a press briefing on 21 May 2020 in Pretoria on her department’s repatriation process of South Africans stranded abroad due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Picture: @DIRCO_ZA/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - International Relations and Cooperation Minister (Dirco) Naledi Pandor on Thursday said that her department continued to receive requests from other categories of South Africans who either had lost their jobs due to companies and schools being affected by lockdowns or simply ran out of money to continue to sustain themselves abroad.

Pandor said that Dirco had facilitated the repatriation of 5,239 South Africans stranded abroad since the end of March. But, in the coming days and weeks the mission would continue to bring nationals home.

The minister said that the focus was to assist South African nationals who were in distress, stranded at airports, students who had asked to evacuate their places of residence, and the elderly and those who needed medical attention.

"To properly coordinate the repatriation process, my department established a command centre, which operates 24 hours a day to help those who were unable to reach our missions abroad," Pandor said.

She said that the numbers of citizens repatriated were more than the initial 3,637 who had requested repatriation, while hundreds more had also returned through land borders.

But, Pandor said as requests from other categories of South Africans continued to stream in, the process of repatriation was not easy given the various restrictions implemented by countries across the world.

“The process involved a lot of negotiations with multiple stakeholders, which explains why we couldn’t repatriate some as speedily as we wished,” Pandor said.

The minister said South Africans abroad requiring repatriation were encouraged to contact embassies to enable Dirco to assess the demand in each country.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.