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Pressure grows on Egypt to bring back 3,378 citizens stranded abroad

April 14, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Egyptian municipality workers disinfect the Giza pyramids as protective a measure against the spread of the coronavirus on 20 March 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Egypt’s Information Minister has said that there are 3,378 Egyptians stranded abroad, spread across Africa, Asia, Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Osama Heikal said that over the next few days the government would announce a schedule for their return.

In an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, Egypt suspended air traffic on 19 March but came under growing criticism after citizens stranded abroad said they had asked authorities to help them return but that it was not forthcoming.

The government initially announced that returnees sign a document consenting to be quarantined for 14 days in a hotel upon their arrival in Egypt, but when they arrived in the country, they found that the designated hotels had five-star ratings and were owned by the government and the army.

READ: Egypt’s billionaires call on country to return to work

As low-income workers abroad, many of the returnees could not afford the stay.

After pressure grew on the government President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced that the government-funded Tayha Misr organisation would pay for their quarantine, however Heikal announced that the government would only cover the cost of returnees in the first week of April.

At the beginning of April Egypt refused to receive a Qatar-chartered Spanish plane transporting Egyptians from Doha on the grounds that international air traffic had been stopped as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

Workers stranded in Qatar have been demanding authorities in the two countries facilitate their return home.

Two weeks ago, a group of Egyptians posted a video on Facebook from Indonesia, calling on the government to bring them home, complaining that they had run out of money.

READ: Egypt’s billionaires call on country to return to work

Over 100 Egyptians are stranded in the Maldives, mainly tourist workers but also holidaymakers who cannot afford the high cost of an extended stay in a hotel, many of which are luxury resorts.

Eight Egyptians stranded in the Philippines said they were staying in a hotel room at a cost of $300 a night.

There are also Egyptians stuck in Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Turkey.

Egypt currently has 2,190 confirmed cases and 164 deaths, though the real figures are thought to be much higher.