Suite à la réponse du ministre des Affaires étrangères, Nando Bodha, à une question posée par le député Shakeel Mohamed au Parlement le 5 mai, un groupe de 43 Mauriciens bloqué à Rome dénonce l’indifférence du ministre des Affaires étrangères et du gouvernement quant à leur sort. Selon ces Mauriciens, il s’agirait d’un “government that has wilfully chosen to be non-responsive to the tragic call for help of its nationals.” La lettre se lit comme suit:
To the “Honourable” N. Bodha, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of the Republic of Mauritius
We are 43 Mauritians stranded in Rome, Italy since 22 March 2020. You, and your government, are now denying us the inalienable right of entry in our own country. No one, and we reiterate, not even you, is above the law of the land. Each and every citizen of the Republic of Mauritius has an unconditional right to exercise his freedom of movement, as enshrined in our Constitution, and this denial on the part of our very own authorities is tantamount to a blatant transgression, erosion and violation of the sacred precepts of our Constitution – and pardon us, but in case you invoke a case of “force majeure”, you need a dedicated decree for that, which you do not have.
Your parliamentary reply to the P.Q. of Hon. Shakeel Mohamed on 05 May 2020 cannot but testify, once more, of your indifference to our plight. In most countries, all nationalities have been repatriated to their native homelands, thanks to the efficient, pre-emptive and diligent agency of their respective Foreign Affairs departments. At present, we are the only nationality left imprisoned in IH Roma hotel in Rome, and treated as pariahs by our own authorities. And our hearts can only bleed when overhearing some of your cronies underlining that “tant ki zot pe gagne manzé, bé laisse zot”.
We wonder as to whether you were reasonably lucid while answering the queries of Hon. Shakeel Mohamed, or you were supplied with incorrect information by your so-called “diplomats”, or you were simply trying to be evasive by masking the bitter reality – but then, how would you know since you have never tried to put yourself in our place?
But forget the request for empathy which we are all too aware that we will never obtain from our government; you stated in your response to the P.Q. that:
(i) at the time there was a flight in Paris outbound for Mauritius, we had not yet received our COVID-19 test results and that would be the first reason as to why we could not board the said flight – this is no less than a web of lies because our tests were ready and the Embassy of Mauritius in Paris was fully aware of that and the flight list, at the outset, never featured our names;
(ii) you mentioned that there was an attempt to “airlift” us from Rome – while this may sound like music to the ears, there was no such attempt – for a government that cannot even provide for a passenger flight to return its citizens, we think, Minister Bodha, that it is high time that you own up to yourself because you are more than cognisant that this only belongs to the remit of considerate and strong governments;
(iii) you further stated that our return depended on the availability of flights- Costa Croiciere has informed, in writing, on numerous occasions, the Embassy of Mauritius in Paris, that it would bear all expenses related to our return to Mauritius, including the provision of a charter flight – we are trying really hard to attribute this miscarriage of information to your Ministry by our venerable Embassy to either apathy or incompetent oversight;
(iv) even if this would hardly stir up your heart, it would not be superfluous to flag to you that most of us constitute a long-retired workforce which has given sweat and soul to a country that was once glorious, and of late, one of us, when requesting for an update, got copiously insulted by a “diplomat” at the Embassy of Paris who, it so seems, does not want to be unnecessarily bothered by our ordeal. We know, Minister Bodha, the elderly can be a pest at times – especially to those who pretend to be busy with imaginary priorities; and
(v) you stated that our last tests date back to 07 April 2020 – this does not hold true as we underwent confirmation tests on 25 April 2020, and the results thereof were duly transmitted to the Embassy of Mauritius in Paris. Costa Crociere immediately initiated action on 30 April 2020 to repatriate all Mauritians on a special charter flight at its own costs but the Mauritian authorities, most unfortunately, never responded and the entire operation was halted.
So, on a concluding note, we do not really know whether to laugh or cry when we see the pretext of a curfew diplomacy being played out – the entire situation is being mishandled, for us and the rest of the Mauritians stranded abroad. We have a few exceptions, of course, but the efforts of these officers are simply overwhelmed, subjugated, and drowned by a government that has wilfully chosen to be non-responsive to the tragic call for help of its nationals. You are undermining the reliability of foreign authorities while our very own doors remain closed to us. Our government harbours an over-exaggerated fear that we will bring the second wave with us – we have been twice tested negative and we are ready to be quarantined, again, once we are back. And still, we are being told that we do not qualify for repatriation since there is a dearth of quarantine space and management back home; so all of sudden we are turned into the sacrificial lamb because a country that prides itself as the star and key of the Indian Ocean does not have adequate quarantine capacity to accommodate its citizens. Hence, should we expect any denouement in the coming days, or that would be, once again, wishful thinking or asking too much? You tell us.
With love and socially-distanced hugs,
The Mauritian ghosts stranded in Rome.