Repatriation nightmare: Portuguese and Brazilians with lives suspended due to pandemic

With the travel ban between Portugal and Brazil extended to March 1, there are now countless dramas affecting families who find themselves separated. 

The Portuguese government has said it is “collecting indispensable information to verify the situations of emergency suffered by nationals non-resident in Brazil” to see if a humanitarian flight is ‘justified’ – but the Brazilian consulate here has said it will not be offering one to stranded Brazilians.

The ‘advice’ from the Brazilian authorities to nationals desperate to get home is “find alternative routes” on your own (meaning a way of flying to Brazil from another country).

The suspension of flights between Portugal and Brazil came into force on January 29, and was meant to run only until February 14. It has since been prolonged until March 1 – in the same way as flights have stopped between Portugal and the UK – all in the interests of ‘controlling the pandemic’ and reducing the risk of spread of ‘dangerous variants’.

The problem is that scores of people are suffering: losing jobs, running out of money, absolutely desperate to get back to lives that are disappearing as the days go by.

Público has heard stories of Brazilians trying to return to Portugal for employment they have here; Portuguese who are separated from their children – and have already spent small fortunes booking plane journeys that are then cancelled.

No-one appears to be able to find ‘any security’ in any of the options available – and the advice from authorities always has been, up to this point, “try and find an alternative route home”.

In the case of Portuguese trying to get home from Brazil, there is the added ‘stress’ of trying to find an alternative route, and lie about the initial point of departure.

From what Público has discovered, there seem to be around 177 people stuck in Brazil trying to get home to Portugal, and almost twice that number ‘stuck in Portugal’ trying to get home to Brazil.

One is university lecturer Luciano Medeiros who travelled here to do a post-doctorate thesis, and was meant to be back in Rio de Janeiro by now to pick up with his teaching.

He tells Público he feels ‘imprisoned’ in Portugal. “The government hasn’t thought about the Brazilians who want to return to their country, or the Portuguese who want to come home. There are people without a place to live. Many have left their jobs and homes. My wife took a year’s leave to come here with me and she should be back at work by now. My son is unable to go back to school. I feel in limbo”.

The Resident has also been contacted by Portuguese ‘stuck in UK’ who are equally desperate to return home – some saying they have ‘run out of money’ – but have had no joy trying to persuade the Portuguese consulate that a repatriation flight is necessary.

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