The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa (pictured) has revealed that Government has at long last agreed to allow the over 2,400 Ugandans stranded abroad to return to Uganda.
However, all returnees must present the negative certificate to Coronovirus before being allowed back into the country.
While briefing Parliament today on the status of Ugandans who are trapped abroad, Kutesa said although Government had agreed on a phased manner of returning Ugandans, only Ugandans who test negative for COVID-19 will be repatriated to Uganda.
“Government has agreed in Principle to allow all the Ugandans who got stranded abroad on account of the closure of the airport and borders to begin returning home in a phased manner starting with those who are in dire need,” Kutesa said.
He added: “Government is congnisant of the capacity of our Health system to safely manage the numbers involved as it repatriates Ugandans.
Our view is that the first phase of these returns should be Ugandans who are stranded in distant places such as Europe, the Americas, West Africa, Eastern Asia and the Middle East.”
He noted that anyone who tests positive will have to first undergo treatment and on arrival, they will have to undergo mandatory 14 days of quarantine. “The travelers will be required to provide proof of negative COVID19UG test results before they embark on their journey. This will help to avoid infecting each other while in transit and on the plane,” he said.
It should be noted that in March the president closed the airport and all borders in the country for any people returning or leaving the country as one of the measures to fight COVID-19 and left only the movement of cargo to continue.
According to Government, the 2nd phase will then be for those in the neighboring countries who are most likely to come by car or on foot through the borders.
“By the time we embark on this next phase, the necessary structures and safeguards will have been set up at the border crossings. The country has now built considerable domestic capacity to manage the Coronovirus pandemic in terms of structures, human resources and citizen awareness,” Kutesa said.
Government also noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs undertook to identify and register all the Ugandans who got stranded abroad on account of the airport and border closures and so far and the Ugandan Missions abroad have so far registered close to 2,400 individuals who are stuck in 66 countries in the world.
“We know that many of the stranded Ugandans have now run short of money and are largely dependent on the good will of either their hosts or on donations from friends. Government agrees that this situation is no longer tenable and that it is time for them to start coming home,” he said, adding: “The decision to allow Ugandans to come back to Uganda was taken after very careful considerations that are meant to balance the need to bring home these brothers and sisters of ours but also to ensure the safety of our people at home.”
The Minister also revealed that the Indian community in Uganda has proposed to arrange for a special flight to bring back both the Ugandans who are stranded in India and also some members of the Indian community who hold Ugandan resident permits but got stranded while visiting India.
Government has also held discussions with global labour Organisations to consider assisting migrant workers who are stranded in the Middle East to return home and is awaiting confirmation of their offer from their Regional offices.
“My Ministry has already held discussions with some of the Airlines which still operate a wide network of routes around the world, such as Ethiopian Airlines, regarding the modalities by which they can pick our people from the different locations and bring them to a more central,” said Kutesa.
Asked by Bugabula South MP, Henry Maurice Kibalya to comment on the repatriation of musician Edrisa Musuza aka Eddy Kenzo, Kutesa said that no special arrangement will be made for Kenzo but the artist will return with other Ugandans stuck in West Africa nations with plans by Government and to ask all of them to gather in Abuja and repatriate them from there.
“Regarding the repatriation of Eddy Kenzo, Government is aware about Kenzo’s situation and that he will be part of the group of Ugandans to be repatriated from the West Africa progressively,” Kutesa said.
He added: “We have since established that many of our returnees already had air tickets which they were traveling on at the time of the closure and that they would now simply need to update those tickets with the airlines. All the returning travelers will be required to meet the cost of their own travel back home as has been the international practice for many countries.”