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Stories from the worldwide repatriation operation

Late-night meeting of the crisis task force at the Embassy in Cairo during the repatriation operation

Late-night meeting of the crisis task force at the Embassy in Cairo during the repatriation operation, © German embassy Cairo

07.05.2020 - Article

Colleagues from Germany and around the world, as well as a traveller, tell us of their experiences during the repatriation operation.

The repatriation operation required an extraordinary effort on the part of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin and of our missions across the globe. Although patience was needed in some cases due to the difficult circumstances, eventually around 240,000 people were able to return to Germany. The repatriation team at the Embassy in Cairo tells us of their experiences at a German mission.

Repatriation team Cairo

As a desk officer for domestic policy and human rights, Melanie normally writes reports on political developments in Egypt. Kai usually assists Germans in Egypt as head of the legal and consular section. During the repatriation operation, the two colleagues coordinated the teams in day and night shifts.

“All of us at the German Embassy in Cairo are exhausted after working on this operation for four weeks, but, at the same time, we’re proud of what we achieved. As a country with a very large number of German tourists, the repatriation operation could only be carried out successfully thanks to the great commitment of all colleagues. Many of those stranded thanked us personally – at airports, on the telephone or via email – once they had arrived safely in Germany. That was really nice.

Everyone lent a helping hand, with some colleagues having to work in completely new areas far removed from their usual remit and having to adapt over and over again to new circumstances and developments. For instance, instead of cultivating political or cultural relations or processing visa applications, they had to deal with the registration of stranded travellers, place them on passenger lists and keep in contact with them over the phone in order to find individual solutions for many challenges. Colleagues also went to the airports to look after the stranded travellers.

We have all learned that we have to be flexible in a crisis of this kind and sometimes we have to start all over again, for example when a situation changes completely, as was the case when it was suddenly no longer possible to register stranded nationals via ELEFAND. Under considerable time pressure, the entire team at the Embassy in Cairo found creative solutions, learned to cope with new developments, while devoting enough attention to individual cases.

We were especially impressed by the readiness to help of our partners on the ground as well as the understanding of passengers when the last repatriation flight from Hurghada had to be delayed by a day at short notice. All of a sudden, 180 German and European holidaymakers were stranded at the airport in Hurghada. Thanks to the tremendous cooperation of our Egyptian contacts, we were able to organise transport, a hotel and meals for stranded holidaymakers without accommodation within a very short space of time. Despite the inconveniences, the passengers were understanding and grateful, something which couldn’t be taken for granted.

Our team’s commitment, initiative and resourcefulness made the repatriation operation possible and we could fully rely on our colleagues at all times. Thanks to their efforts, as well as the great work done by the tour operators, around 35,000 Germans and many European holidaymakers are back home now.”

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