#Canada; #CanadiansStrandedAbroad; #ForeignAirlines; #Covid19Pandemic
Ottawa, May 8 (Canadian-Media): Thousands of Canadians stranded abroad in remote mountain regions, on secluded islands and in locked-down countries that Canadian carriers can't reach amid the COVID-19 pandemic are being repatriated to Canada with the help of nearly a dozen foreign airlines, media reports said.
Global Affairs Canada. Image credit: Twitter handle
The repatriation effort is being spearheaded by Global Affairs Canada, which has completely retooled its operations to turn nearly every available employee into a full-time travel agent. Staffers who used to write ministerial briefing notes are now booking hotels, buses and flights.
The department, with the help of MPs, embassies and consular staff around the world, has returned more than 25,000 Canadians from 81 countries since the pandemic began.
Canada had sought the assistance of international airlines due to the logistics limitation faced by some Canadian airlines which could not fly to places like India, the Philippines, India and some countries in Africa to bring back stranded Canadians.
Some of the problems the Canadian airlines faced were some countries with stranded Canadians' shutdown of airspace, temporary ban imposed on people from travelling to airports without government documentation, introduction of travel ban by some countries to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Canadian airlines, including Air Canada, Air Transat, WestJet and Sunwing, were involved in repatriation efforts, more than half of the Canadians brought home to date flew on foreign airlines, said Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.
After arranging transport home for about 25,000 people, the federal government reported that it was now in the process of bringing back to Canada the last 20 percent of outstanding cases of stranded travelers. But the federal government said that still it won't be able to get everyone home before the pandemic itself ends.
Oliphant said that it would be difficult to repatriate small numbers of people, often in isolated or remote places and some of whom will be left behind.
The government says it will help those stranded people, who could not be brought back to Canada, to find shelter in place with consular support until the pandemic passes.