Paris multiplies flights and boats to repatriate its citizens stranded in Maghreb

New air and sea connections will be chartered to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia to return French citizens who are still stranded because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.

They are about 15,000 French people who are still stranded in Maghreb due to the Covid-19 epidemic. “We will carry out three daily flights to Algiers from May 27 (…) that will triple the air capacity” to enable their return, said Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, on France’s radio radio on Tuesday, May 26

In addition to these flights, which will be provided by Air France, ASL Airlines France will organize a daily special flight between Alger and Paris from May 27 to May 31, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Only seven flights a week connect the two capitals. About 350 special flights that have already been chartered have made it possible to return 56,000 of them.

A maritime link between Algiers and Marseille

A sea connection is also planned for June 1 between Algiers and Marseille, with a boat capable of carrying more than 1,000 passengers and several hundred vehicles. Other shipping connections are planned during the first half of June.

Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, especially popular with French tourists and many binational nations, have closed their airspace since mid-March.

As for Morocco, “we will organize, especially for motorhomes, but not just for them, a dozen maritime connections over the next fifteen days,” the minister added, referring to a “real sea bridge”.

One ferry left Tuesday for Sète, another planned for Marseille, two French ports on the Mediterranean coast on Wednesday. Cruises will also be planned “next week” to Malaga (Spain), Sète and Marseille, the minister said. From Malaga, motorhomes will be approved by the Spanish authorities to return to France “if they stop on the highway”, he noted.

Spain, one of the European countries most affected by the pandemic, closed its borders to foreign tourists until July 1 and, up to this date, imposed a 14-day quarantine on any person, Spanish or foreign, entering its territory.

In Morocco as in Tunisia, where there is currently only one flight per week between Tunis and Paris, the Foreign Ministry is also working to open additional air services. In addition, a sea crossing between Tunis and Marseille is planned on June 3, as well as others during the first half of June.

Very strict rules

Attacked on questions about the situation thus blocked by the French, especially in Morocco, Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledged “difficulties” but also pointed out the very strict rules that complicate repatriations from these countries.

“I understand their frustrations, that they also understand the difficulties we face. We do as well as we can, but it’s not always easy,” he asked.

Since mid-March, 200 special flights have made it possible to return 30,000 French people from Morocco, says Jean-Yves Le Drian. A total of 186,000 French citizens, tourists or travelers traveling around the world for family or professional reasons have been returned since that date.

With AFP