Berri Criticizes Government’s Conditions to Repatriate Stranded Lebanese Nationals
Speaker Nabih Berri lashed out at the Foreign Ministry for delaying the repatriation of Lebanese nationals stranded in coronavirus-infected countries.
“They are facing the threat of the pandemic across the globe and some places lack hospitals and the minimum basics of health care,” Berri said.
The issue of Lebanese locked in coronavirus-endemic countries in Europe and Africa has raised a lot of controversy. While many political parties have called for their return to Lebanon, the government insisted they could not be repatriated before April 12, at the end of the extended lockdown period.
In a television interview on Thursday, Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti said nationals would not be allowed to return to Lebanon unless they test negative for the virus.
“We will allocate aircraft to return them to their homeland after securing a PCR examination, and subjecting them to it,” he stated.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab explained the government’s position, saying: “Nobody can be excluded before the end of the specified public mobilization for two reasons: First, protecting people who wish to return from the possibility of being infected on the plane and transmitting the infection to a large number of people; second, preventing the spread of the virus in the country, because a large part of our infections were transmitted by inbound travelers.”
“In all cases, we are studying the means to bring them back home, and we will work to develop a clear vision before April 12,” he added.
Berri called on the government to hold an urgent meeting to review the issue.
“Isn’t the attempt to steal their deposits via capital control enough? You are asking them to submit requests to embassies, but they are not seeking citizenship. They are Lebanese or rather the Lebanese,” Berri affirmed.
He also noted that the expats are “willing to bear all the financial and medical burdens of their return.”