Noureddine Erray Pace of repatriation operations for Tunisians stranded abroad has been slow for logistical reasons

Foreign Minister Noureddine Erray said Thursday that the pace of repatriation operations of Tunisians stranded abroad following the closure of land and sea borders has been slow for logistical reasons.

This slowness is due to the need to prepare the accommodation premises where Tunisian nationals returning to the country will stay during the period of health quarantine, the minister explained, reporting on the progress of the operation which will continue until they are all repatriated.

Speaking during a dialogue session in parliament, Noureddine Erray added that the repatriation process has not been "an easy task" and has required teams in terms of security, health and food, as well as volunteers to provide services for a fortnight.

Tunisia, he affirmed, had been among the few countries to take the decision to guarantee the return of its nationals to the country, considering it a national duty. But it had encountered logistical difficulties both at home and abroad.

In his view, the operation had been complicated by the widespread lockdown measures applied by all countries.

While admitting that there had been shortcomings, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that his department had done everything possible through diplomatic missions to facilitate the repatriation of Tunisians, especially those in faraway lands.

"As Tunisian diplomatic representation is reduced in African and Asian countries, honorary consuls and representatives of civil society, both at home and abroad, have intervened to find solutions," the minister explained.

He added that priority had been given to urgent cases and those related to security and health situations, stating that repatriation operations would continue.

Erray pointed out in this regard that a government commission representing the various ministries (Foreign Affairs, Transport, Interior, Health, Higher Education and Tourism) is in charge of the repatriation process of Tunisians stranded abroad.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, he explained, had set up a central cell and cells within diplomatic representations to be in contact with Tunisians abroad and to draw up lists of those who request to return to the country and determine their needs.

At the beginning of the dialogue session, Speaker of the House of People's Representatives Rached Ghannouchi indicated that this session, organised by the crisis unit within the parliament to examine the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, is of particular importance in relation to the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution both at home and abroad.

He stressed the need to join efforts at the legislative and executive levels and to work together to resolve the problems of Tunisians stranded abroad, commending the action of diplomatic representations to facilitate contact with the Tunisian community abroad and provide them with all the information and services they need.

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