The crisis has left thousands of EU citizens stranded in countries from where they want to return to their home countries as soon a possible. While airports around the world have been closed and commercial flights cancelled some member states have organised flights for their own citizens.
The European Commission has also stepped in and is operating its Civil Protection Mechanism to repatriate EU citizens. According to the Commission, so far, the mechanism has co-funded more than 80 flights organised by Germany, Czechia, Poland, Lithuania, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Ireland.
Belgium has brought back EU Citizens from Tunisia. Germany continues to organise flights to bring back EU citizens from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, the Philippines, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Latvian planes will bring EU citizens home from Georgia, while Lithuania will repatriate Europeans from Indonesia.
Czechia will organize repatriation flights from Egypt, Vietnam and the Philippines. Poland will repatriate citizens from Chad, Sudan, Nepal, and the Maldives and the United Kingdom will fly UK nationals and EU citizens home from Peru.
However, the first and best option is to use commercial flights as much as possible and here the EU delegations abroad work together with member states embassies to coordinate such flights.
A Commission spokesperson told The Brussels Times that national authorities should be aware of and involved in EU coordination to repatriate stranded citizens.
Another issue, for all EU member states, is whether repatriated citizens from affected countries are put in home-guaranine on arrival.
This week Swedish media reported about desperate Swedish citizens who begged the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs to bring them home. Sweden has since previous disasters a law on consular aid in situations like the current coronavirus crisis but it is only applied when citizens are in life danger. Apparently, the ministry thinks that this is not case now.
Only 31 Swedish citizens have been repatriated back to Europe under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. “We don’t have an exact figure of the number of all Swedish nationals repatriated, as this information is only known after the member states that performed the repatriation have reported their data”, says the Commission.
A press officer at the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs told The Brussels Times that about 15,000 – 25,000 Swedes are abroad on charter flights. The number of people who have travelled alone is estimated to about the same figure.
The ministry urges all Swedes abroad to register at the embassies and to download an application, Resklar, to receive the latest information about the situation in the country and the possibility to leave it.
”Sweden cooperates closely with other EU countries to facilitate repatriation, for example by contacting local authorities and assisting travel operators to receive flight permits,” the press officer said.
The feeling among stranded Swedish travellers, however, is that they have been left to care for themselves and that the ministry is only a last resort.
Update: At today’s virtual press briefing (27 March), the Commission announced that it will add €45 million to the budget of the Civil Protection Mechanism for further repatriation flights. So far, about 2,300 EU citizens have been repatriated via this mechanism.