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Coronavirus: Hundreds of Moroccans stranded abroad demand return home

Over 22,000 Moroccans are currently unable to go home after the kingdom closed its border in March
At least 387 Moroccans living abroad have died so far after contracting the coronavirus (AFP)

Hundreds of Moroccans stranded abroad because of the coronavirus pandemic have vented their fury at government negligence and demanded their immediate repatriation on social media. 

Using the French, English and Arabic language hashtags “Morocco has forgotten us” and “Bring us home”, Moroccans have been detailing their ordeals and frustrations nearly two months since Moroccan authorities closed the borders and suspended air links in a bid to confine citizens and prevent the spread of the virus.  

Translation: Help us!! we are stranded abroad after having been abandoned by our dear country Morocco! An intense psychological and physical suffering.

Translation: We want answers! When will the repatriations happen, we can't deal with this anymore, give us answers! Give us dates!

As of Tuesday, Morocco had confirmed a total of 5,153 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, including 180 deaths.

Around 22,000 Moroccans are currently stranded abroad. Despite reassurances from the minister delegate in charge of Moroccan expatriates, Nezha El Ouafi, that costs of accommodation and care for some of the expatriates would be taken care of, some are stuck in dire conditions.

Measures put in place by Morocco also include partnerships with authorities in the countries in question to legally extend the duration of the expatriates' stay and to accommodate them in hotels. 

Translation: Wishing strength and courage to the Moroccans stranded abroad during this confinement. There are more than 22,000 people who are waiting to return home to their country, let's please not forget them

However, according to personal accounts posted online, many are running out of money and spending Ramadan on the streets, stating that Rabat has given no assistance, information, or details of a potential timeline or conditions for their return home. 

Translation: I have been stuck since 13 March in Ceuta... I came to Spain for three days and now it's been 50 days that I am living this ordeal here... It's unfair that we are not allowed to go home!

Translation: Morocco has been ignoring Moroccans stranded abroad for 50 days - or is that just an impression? Where is the Morocco that manages the crisis better than anyone and that sends masks and ventilators to rich countries?

On 27 April, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita failed to disclose a date for repatriation, instead accusing the Netherlands and Belgium of discriminating against dual nationals seeking to be evacuated from Morocco by requesting additional paperwork.

“After the Netherlands deported its citizens, it asked Morocco to provide licenses to deport Moroccans with Dutch citizenship from Tangier, Al Hoceima and Nador airports,” Bourita said.

Repatriation of dual nationals stuck in Morocco began on 1 May with a first flight from Casablanca to Brussels. However, the repatriation process has been marked by chaos, according to accounts from dual nationals. 

The tense situation with regards to Moroccans stranded abroad and dual nationals stranded in the country has also created a bubble of misinformation that has compromised people’s private information. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was forced to issue a statement against an online site called rapatriement.ma, which officially aims “to contribute modestly to the great efforts deployed to combat this epidemic and to alleviate its consequences", for collecting the personal data of stranded Moroccans which it sought to help.

The platform has since been suspended and those behind the site have reassured those who have volunteered their information that all data has now been destroyed. 

Hundreds die abroad

At least 387 Moroccans living abroad have died so far after contracting the coronavirus, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

In Morocco, a state of health emergency was imposed in March after the first cases of coronavirus were recorded in the country. Speaking last week, Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb confirmed the state of emergency would only be lifted if the number of cases dropped in coming weeks. 

According to a study conducted by the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis, the majority of those surveyed were recorded as generally satisfied with the measures taken by the government to battle the coronavirus.

But according to the same survey, many Moroccans expressed a lack of confidence in the healthcare sector’s ability to respond adequately to the pandemic.