NAIROBI, Kenya, April 24 – Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo has defended the government over its decision to demand Kenyans seeking to return home to do so but at their own cost.
Speaking during an interview on Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Omamo said it is not feasible for the government to cater for travel expenses of the 3 million Kenyans who are documented to be living abroad.
“We want to meet those that are in distress within the limits of our resources and to try and find solutions that go beyond evacuations. We have to be reasonable, we have to think with our heads and not with our hearts. If we start evacuating people free of charge, others will start demanding the same thing,” she said.
The ministry’s Principal Secretary Ambassador Macharia Kamau has come under heavy criticism after he said it is impractical to charter flights for Kenyans stranded in China and India.
Kenyans took to the social media to express the disappointment over the decision as they urged the government to draw money from the COVID-19 Response Fund which was set up to support the government’s efforts to source for medical supplies and equipment and support for the vulnerable amid a decline in economic performance.
“It is not feasible or sustainable for our country to pay for people to be evacuated from various destinations. Consider for example we have over 100,000 Kenyans in the Middle East, we have almost a million in America, we have thousands in Europe, we have Kenyans in Australia, we have them in Latin America, we have them all over Africa. If we were to say that we were able to repatriate everyone free of charge it would be impossible for us to sustain,” CS Omamo told the State Broadcaster.
The Cabinet Secretary further assured Kenyans living in Diaspora that the government had not abandoned them.
“With regard to the Diaspora, I want to say as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we have your interest at heart. We are trying to do our very best to try and meet you at the point of your need.”
“I want to say that the solutions that we need to put in place for you are complex, they may take time, so we ask for your forbearance and your patience,” the country’s chief diplomat further explained.
The Kenyan High Commission in New Delhi on Monday announced that it is working on plans to evacuate Kenyans seeking to return home but at their own cost.
A statement by High Commissioner Willy Bett had urged all Kenyans in India who are interested in returning home on envisaged evacuation flights to urgently submit their names to the Kenya High Commission in New Delhi through the WhatsApp Telephone Number: +917428642477 or email: [email protected]
Bett said priority will be given to patients and caregivers and the date of the travel will be determined after the requests are reviewed.
The Kenyan Embassy in Beijing similarly asked Kenyans wishing to return home from China to submit their details.
Those travelling home are required to among other things possess a valid Kenyan passport, be able to pay for their own fare (Sh75,000) and must be COVID-19 free with a certificate from Chinese authorities to that effect.
The embassy also said returnees must be ready to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed by the government upon arrival in Nairobi.