Canadians trapped in South Africa due to flight cancellations

Megan Tanya Hodgkinson was visiting family in South Africa last week when Canada imposed travel restrictions on several African countries after scientists detected a new variant of the new coronavirus.

Hodgkinson, who was in Durban to see his sick mother, planned to return home with some of his in-laws to celebrate Christmas in Ontario. Now her in-laws’ visit has been canceled and she’s not sure how she’ll get home.

“My husband and my other two children are in Canada and if I have to miss Christmas with them, it’s heartbreaking,” Hodgkinson, who is traveling with her three-year-old son, said in an interview Wednesday.

Canadians trying to return from South Africa, one of 10 countries targeted by Canada’s new travel restrictions, say they face ill-conceived rules that are difficult to follow and do not receive enough information from the federal government on how to return home.

Citizens of South Africa and six neighboring nations, along with Egypt, Malawi, and Nigeria, cannot come to Canada. Canadians returning from those countries must obtain a COVID-19 test prior to departure, another test in their transit country, and retested when they land. They must also self-quarantine when they arrive in Canada at a government-designated facility until they get a negative result.

Hodgkinson, who is a Canadian permanent resident with a South African passport, said he is concerned that he will not be able to comply with the transit test rule.

Obtaining a COVID-19 test at London, England airport, where you have your connecting flight, will require you to go through immigration, something that is only possible for travelers from South Africa who are British or Irish citizens, due to travel restrictions. from United Kingdom. intended to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

“I’m doing everything I can to do everything legally, in the right way,” he said. “I do not want to bring any virus to my country of origin.

“That road test is preventing a lot of Canadians from going home and that is causing a big problem.”

He said it feels as if the Canadian entry restrictions weren’t designed with the realities of Canadian travelers in mind.

Canadians in #South Africa face canceled flights, uncertainty as they try to return. #CDNPoli # Covid19 # Omicron

“I do not understand this traffic test in the middle of the return flights. I will take a test before I leave South Africa and I will take a test when I get (to Canada), “he said.

“I’m waiting at the hotel to have a negative test and then I’m going straight home. I have a quarantine plan. I have my own car waiting for me at the airport, so no one takes me home.”

Hodgkinson said the restrictions are unfair because they only target certain African countries, even though the Omicron variant has been detected in Europe, Asia and the United States.

“The South African government was open and honest with the rest of the world, they didn’t hide it,” he said. “They could have kept quiet, but this seems to me that it’s going to teach the rest of the world to keep quiet.”

Peter Pfefferle, a Montreal resident who traveled to South Africa to watch a groundbreaking ceremony at a school built by a charity he supports, said he planned to return to Canada on a KLM flight last Monday. However, he and his wife had their booking canceled because the trip had a stopover in the Netherlands. That country issued a recent order that prohibits non-European citizens from transit through its territory.

Pfefferle, a Canadian citizen, also has a German passport, but his wife, Natacha Carpentier, only has a Canadian passport.

“We went to the airport that night to try to get on the plane, but they held up Natacha’s passport and said, ‘that’s your problem,'” Pfefferle said in an interview Wednesday. “It is the first time in my life that I regret having a Canadian passport or that my wife has a Canadian passport.”

Pfefferle said he had trouble communicating with the Canadian consulate in Cape Town and that an email service for Canadians abroad only provided information on entry requirements.

“They say, ‘If you’re in South Africa right now, be prepared to stay longer.’

The couple have now booked a flight through Germany after they were unable to get a flight in transit through the United States.

“Now we realize that the only country that takes care of us is Germany,” Carpentier said.

Edos Omorotionmwan, a lawyer in Calgary, said he is concerned that his father will have to cancel a scheduled visit from Nigeria in January. Omorotionmwan said he believes Canada’s decision to restrict only travel from African countries is racist.

“I understand that we need to be very cautious when it comes to COVID and our responses to the variants that come out periodically,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “But I think in this particular case, it seems to be very racist.”

“Why hasn’t it spread to European countries where Omicron has been detected?”

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This Canadian Press report was first published on December 1, 2021.

This story was produced with financial assistance from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Leave a Comment