Dirco denies pulling the plug on Qatar Airways repatriation flights

(iStock)
(iStock)

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has dismissed claims the government has pulled the plug on Qatar Airways repatriating South Africans from various countries. 

The department said it was, however, in continued discussions with the airline to ensure the repatriations were done in line with the rules and regulations stipulated by the government. 

While the repatriation of South Africans from various countries was a humanitarian mission coordinated by the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints), guided by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), it was being coordinated to ensure it was compliant with lockdown regulations, department spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said in a statement.

"South Africans abroad requiring repatriation have been encouraged to contact South African embassies to enable the department to assess the demand in each country. 

"This information is then used to arrange the repatriation effort and to co-ordinate with NatJoints to ensure logistical arrangements with health, home affairs, police, public works and other relevant departments, including public enterprises when SAA is providing the airlift." 

Ngqengelele added because of the continued demand of people wanting to be repatriated, the department had submitted a request to the NCCC following approval by NatJoints. 

"When the process has been finalised and all the arrangements have been made, the department will continue with the repatriation of South Africans."

Almost 3 400 of the initial 3 637 South Africans who had indicated they wanted to be brought home have returned, including those coming in through the land borders, Ngqengelele said.

"The department reiterates its commitment to assist all stranded South African abroad to come back home."

On Wednesday night, more than 200 South Africans, who were repatriated from Doha's Hamad International Airport, landed at OR Tambo International Airport, News24 reported.

This after they were left stranded in Qatar on Tuesday after the aircraft had to turn around on the runway, which resulted in them sleeping at the airport before departing on Wednesday morning.

While the department said everything was under control, one person, who wanted to remain anonymous and is waiting to board the second last repatriation flight, said they were confused about what was happening as they were receiving information, via a group called South African home away from home, that the other flights would be cancelled.

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