Britain’s Reilly hails cooperation with Morocco on Brits’ repatriation
CASABLANCA - British ambassador to Rabat Thomas Reilly hailed a “model of cooperation” with Morocco to repatriate Britons who have been stranded in the North African kingdom after Rabat shut down its airspace in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“I have to pay tribute to Morocco’s ministry of foreign affairs. They could not have been more helpful,” Reilly told Middle East Online in a phone interview.
“They have given us advice when things were getting difficult. Instead of saying no, they phoned up to ask whether we could change things around. It’s been really a model of cooperation with them,” said Reilly.
Britain has organised some 51 flights to take over 8,600 passengers home after they were stranded in Morocco since Rabat suspended March 15 all international flights as part of a series of preventative measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the North African country.
The latest flight took off Friday from Casablanca airport.
“I hope and pray that this is the last flight we are going to organise,” said Reilly who has been very active on social media to interact with British holidaymakers stranded in Morocco.
The British ambassador praised Moroccans’ generosity and hospitality after his LinkedIn account was flooded with solidarity messages offering their accommodations to the stranded Brits for free.
“The solidarity of Moroccan people towards the Brits was unbelievable. It was absolutely extraordinary,” said Reilly.
“Honestly, I love Morocco. I think it’s an amazing country. I’ve had a fabulous time here. I expect that level of hospitality from Moroccans because that’s how they are. Even I was amazed by what I got,” he added.
The British Embassy to Rabat set up a solidarity fund upon the request of representatives of British expatriates who wanted to contribute to Morocco’s efforts in its fight against the pandemic.
“The British community would really like to make a contribution to Morocco’s solidarity fund,” said Reilly.
“It’s not going to be a massive contribution, but it is important that we demonstrate solidarity with the Moroccan people,” added Reilly who is set to leave Morocco in mid-August.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI ordered March 18 the creation of a special fund dedicated to managing the coronavirus pandemic.
Since its inception, the fund has financed the expenses of upgrading and making medical equipment, in addition to the creation of field hospitals across the country.
The fund, which has reached 33 billion dirhams ($3.32 billion) as of April 7, is also supporting Moroccans who have been financially affected by the crisis.
Morocco was one the first countries in the world to implement stricter measures to fight the pandemic by shutting down its airspace, closing its border with the two Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and enforcing a public health state of emergency.
It also closed schools, universities, businesses, mosques and clubs and cancelled all sports and cultural events. It imposed a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am.
The number of people infected with coronavirus in Morocco stood at 1,448 and 107 deaths, according to the latest figures provided by the Ministry of Health as of April 10 at 6 am.
This article was first published in Middle East Online.