Bourita says repatriation of Moroccans stranded abroad must be done in optimal conditions

Moroccan FM says right of return of Moroccans stranded abroad is indisputable right, but fails to unveil a timeline for their repatriation.
Friday 24/04/2020
Bourita: The main thing is not the timing, but the impact of such an approach without overbidding and without haste. (AFP)
Bourita: The main thing is not the timing, but the impact of such an approach without overbidding and without haste. (AFP)

CASABLANCA – Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans living abroad Nasser Bourita said Thursday that the return of Moroccans stranded abroad because of the coronavirus lockdown must take place in optimal conditions.

“The right to return is a natural and indisputable right. What is obvious is not necessarily appropriate in this exceptional context,” said Bourita after a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Islamic Affairs and Moroccans Living Abroad.

Over 22,000 Moroccan nationals have so far contacted Morocco’s various diplomatic representations, according to the ministry's data. Most of them are stuck in France, Spain and Turkey.

Bourita said that the repatriation operation must be done in the best conditions without risk for the beneficiaries themselves, nor for their country, but failed to unveil a timeline for their return.

He said that Morocco was working to put in place as soon as possible the conditions for such a return as long as the healthcare system was ready to care for them.

“The main thing is not the timing, but the impact of such an approach without overbidding and without haste,” said the minister.

On February 2, Morocco repatriated 167 citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in China following King Mohammed VI’s order. They were quarantined at hospitals in Meknes and Rabat before being released.

But since Morocco’s closure of its air and sea borders on March 12 to cope with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Moroccans have been stranded abroad, pleading with the government to launch repatriation flights as their financial resources are running thin.

Some of them lost their lives because of the virus infection, including businessman Mohammed Azbane, founder of the cosmetic brand Azbane, who died in Paris.

Nezha El Ouafi, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said they were currently unable to repatriate the remains of Moroccans who died abroad to be buried in Morocco due to the repercussions of measures taken by various countries to stem the spread of the pandemic.

“Our ministry decided to cover the burial costs of the precarious and uninsured deceased, as well as their burial in Muslim squares in cemeteries in the countries of residence,” Ouafi told Le Matin.

Bourita said that his ministry had planned the means to manage the coming period in the short term and increase the number of beneficiaries of this operation.

“The foreign ministry’s services will continue to help Moroccans stranded abroad in the context of this unprecedented crisis,” he said.

Morocco reported Friday that confirmed COVID-19 cases have reached 3,692 with 155 deaths and 478 recoveries.

This article was first published in Middle East online.