Berlin Carina Müller and her boyfriend Stefan * started their Morocco tour from Agadir to the Sahara at the end of February, the drama of the corona crisis was not yet foreseeable. But two weeks later the trip turned into a horror trip. Morocco, like many other countries at the time, canceled all international flights.
Carina and Stefan also received news from their airline that their flight, which was supposed to bring them back to Germany on March 15, had been canceled. With thousands of tourists they were now stuck in Morocco, angry about misinformation and experiencing panic scenes at the airport.
The Federal Government, together with tour operators and the Lufthansa more than 150,000 Germans stranded abroad because of the corona crisis.
“We have largely completed the return flow from the main holiday areas and are now devoting ourselves particularly to countries further away,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday after a video shoot with his EU counterparts. It can be assumed that the campaign will involve several hundred thousand Germans abroad.
It is the largest return campaign in the history of the Federal Republic. And the problems were correspondingly large, at least in the beginning. “For the first 24 hours we had received no information from the Federal Foreign Office at all,” remembers Carina Müller. Neither about Facebook The embassy also provided information or instructions on the official homepage about who they could have contacted or where they should go.
With the information that all borders are tight and all flight connections have been canceled, not only Carina Müller and her friend, but also thousands of other German holidaymakers in Morocco remained in uncertainty for a few days, traveling between airports and accommodation.
On Sunday, March 15th at 3 p.m., the Federal Foreign Office finally spoke up – of all things via Instagram: You should stay where you are, get more information via email, keep calm. “Like most of the others, we tried to reach the German embassy in Morocco by phone,” said Müller. But neither the hotline nor the emergency number were busy.
Panic at the airport
“Since we didn’t know if flights would actually go and we wanted to avoid the risk of getting infected at the airport and dragging the virus back to the hotel, we stayed in our accommodation in Fes,” said Carina.
She and her friend had read about tourists in a privately created WhatsApp group who had unsuccessfully searched for flight connections among the masses at the airports in Rabat, Casablanca or Marrakech – only to have to return to the cities after arriving there.
However, the restaurants, many accommodations and shops in Morocco gradually closed. “In fact, we were advised not to leave the accommodation at night, because the tenor prevailed that tourists had introduced the virus to Morocco and there should have been hostilities,” said the tourist.
On that Sunday evening, finally, an instruction: via Facebook, the Federal Foreign Office reported certain times and airports at which tourists had the last chance to leave. Travelers should arrive in Casablanca on time at 8 a.m. to be allocated flights.
Müller and her friend had to drive from Fes to Casablanca, just 300 kilometers away, to the airport at two in the morning. “Still feasible for us as a couple around 30 years old. The situation is different for families with children or women traveling alone, ”says Müller.
At the airport, like thousands of other German, French and other European travelers, she was expecting a throng without barriers, constantly changing information on the screens and mass panic. “People always went back and forth between the terminals because the information was constantly changing,” said Müller. “We also saw two people collapse and it took a long time for help to come.”
Federal Foreign Office relied on initiative
Information from the German embassy in Morocco continued via Facebook videos. “Do not worry, there will be a place for everyone,” said Ambassador Götz Schmidt-Bremme. Numerous angry comments from vacationers at the airport followed, as the conditions were said to be anything but regulated.
“They are people who have not slept since yesterday and have been awake for 24 hours! Now they are there and there is no information !! “or” Just got the information from the embassy employee that only one machine with 275 seats is flying today. There are still at least 800 people here, ”commented Facebook users on the ambassador’s video.
Some vacationers may have had fewer or no complications, as some also welcomed the Foreign Office’s action in their comments. “Listen to the video until the end !!! Nobody who is willing to leave stays behind, ”wrote a user. Another Facebook comment read: “Thank you for bringing us home.”
The embassy also advised in a message to buy commercial flights that were still available. “Personal initiative has priority,” she wrote in her report on the current situation at the airport.
Up until Thursday of last week, US tourists in Morocco were in a similar situation to European holidaymakers. As the New York Times reported, numerous US citizens were still stuck at the airports in Morocco on Wednesday and could not reach their State Department.
“Everyone fully understands that nobody can prepare for such a situation and that the message has to be organized first,” says tourist Müller, who managed to get a plane ticket from the Federal Foreign Office for the trip home two weeks ago with her boyfriend . “But there has to be a protocol of how to act in crisis situations instead of not communicating at all for 24 hours.”
* Name changed by the editors
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