The Portuguese government announced this Wednesday morning (17) that it would organize a repatriation flight for the Portuguese detained in Brazil. Travel between the two countries has been suspended since January 29.
During a session in the local parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs (equivalent to the portfolio of Foreign Affairs in Brazil), Augusto Santos Silva, said he had asked the Portuguese embassy to identify citizens who are due to return in Portugal “for humanitarian reasons”. .
The minister did not give details on the expected departure date or the expected number of passengers. According to Santos Silva, 70 people have already been detected and meet the criteria for repatriation.
“There are 70 Portuguese who are in Brazil, but who do not reside in Brazil, who, for health reasons, have to return to Portugal,” he said.
The government is still receiving guidance on the types of cases that will be included in repatriation. In addition to health issues, Portuguese with financial difficulties to stay in the country and citizens with family needs can also benefit.
The minister said the government intended to support citizens who have to return for humanitarian reasons, but he took the opportunity to criticize those who traveled without worrying about the health situation.
“In May of last year, there were still European citizens who took the opportunity to take cruises. We have to desert behaviors that we cannot have now. We have to be very careful in the international circulation of the virus, in particular the mutations which we do not yet know well, ”said.
Although the Portuguese government has so far identified 70 people in need of repatriation, a much larger group has requested official support from the authorities to return to Europe.
More than 150 people, including Portuguese and Brazilians residing legally in Portugal, signed an open letter asking for help with repatriation.
This is the case of Brazilian esthetician Drielle Galdino.
“I came to Brazil for 14 days to have emergency surgery. Unfortunately, I entered this situation unable to return home. I have a 7 year old daughter with anxiety attacks in Portugal. I am desperate, I need to go home urgently, ”she said.
The ban on flights between the two countries, initially valid until February 14, has already been extended until March 1, and a further extension is expected to occur.
Also during his hearing in Parliament, the minister said he had spoken to the Brazilian government to clarify the ban on movement between the two countries. According to Santos Silva, the decision was made taking into account only the worsening pandemic in Portugal.
“I spoke with the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs [Ernesto Araújo], to whom I explained that it was a measure that we had taken not because of a negative assessment of the epidemiological situation in Brazil, but because we were living a very difficult epidemiological situation in Portugal and that we had to take measures of this nature, ”he added.
Although it prohibits commercial and private flights, the Portuguese decree allows travel for humanitarian reasons. Citizens or legal residents of Portugal and other countries of the European Union may embark, in addition to other cases in which the traffic is considered to be of an exceptional nature.
The document also opens the possibility for someone to return from Brazil to Portugal via flights with connections in other countries. However, many of those affected complain that the high ticket price makes this option unworkable.
“I cannot pay for another ticket with alternative routes, because the airlines profit from the sale of tickets at exorbitant prices”, says the Brazilian Galdino.
Meanwhile, Brazilians in Portugal are also suffering from border closures. Unlike March 2020, when those affected were mostly tourists, this time around, those affected are mostly migrants.
Many of them lost their jobs due to the pandemic and were already planning to return to Brazil when the travel ban went into effect. Several reports point to people who no longer have the money to stay in Europe.
This week, a group of Brazilians in this situation began to sleep at Lisbon airport. Itamaraty says there are no forecasts for repatriation flights funded by the Brazilian government.