On 23 March, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a nationwide lockdown would be implemented from 27 March to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Despite the closure of all South African borders, the government affirmed that it would repatriate all South African citizens stranded abroad.
However, more than six weeks after the lockdown has been implemented, many of these South Africans have still not been repatriated and are desperate for some intervention to help them return to home soil. These citizens have been pleading with the government to repatriate them, citing financial difficulties and an increasing health risk adding to their woes.
Constant delay of Qatar flights
Their plight came under the spotlight again recently due to the constant postponement and abrupt cancellation of five Qatar Airways flights on which hundreds of South Africans were booked to return home from Doha to Johannesburg.
This delay and cancellation of flights have also been causing inconvenience and stress to the lives of foreigners stranded in South Africa who were hoping to catch the return flights from Johannesburg to Doha.
Many have criticised governmental inefficiency and miscommunication, stating that they severely underestimated the numbers of South Africans stuck abroad. Furthermore, until the South African borders are reopened, the number of people needing to be repatriated will continue to grow.
Tireless efforts of Home Away from Home team
However, the Home Away from Home (HAFH) team of South African volunteers has provided crucial intervention and hope to citizens stuck abroad.
In the true spirit of ubuntu, the Home Away from Home team have gone the extra mile to assist stranded South Africans to get back home. In April they helped more than a 100 stranded South Africans who literally slept on the floor at Heathrow Airport in London, to get home safely.
The South African chatted exclusively to one of these passionate heroes, Hayley Reichert, who is a volunteer administration member for Home Away from Home.
In our conversation with Reichert, she explains the situation that #lockedout citizens face and what Home Away From Home is doing to help.
If you are interested in joining Home Away From Home or assisting South Africans who are stranded abroad, visit their Facebook page.
You can also contribute to HAFH’s efforts here.
* On Tuesday 12 May, Flight QR 1363 from Doha — carrying South Africans who were stuck abroad — landed at the OR Tambo International Airport. The flight was approved on Monday 11 May by National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints).
However, Natjoints did not approve four more flights which Qatar Airways had scheduled to bring South Africans home and repatriate foreigners on their return flights. These flights are scheduled for 16, 20, 24 and 28 May.