Foreign minister denies Portugal is China’s ‘special friend in the EU’

Thousands of Portuguese ‘stranded’ in far flung corners of world hold out for repatriation

Thousands of Portuguese ‘stranded’ in far flung corners of the world as a result of the raging coronavirus pandemic are desperately holding out for repatriation flights as airlines everywhere cut back on scheduled services.

Talking in parliament today, foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva said authorities have been doing everything possible, but there remain “something between two and three thousand Portuguese” still needing assistance in returning home.

On Monday, the country triggered an EU mechanism to help ‘rescue’ citizens stuck in Peru.

They should be returning shortly, on a specially-organised TAP flight transporting 17 other European nationalities.

But that is only a solution for some. Others are in all kinds of ‘impossible locations’ that have shut down from the world – and as social media commentary has shown, they don’t feel confident that if they became ill the health services in these places would care for them in the same way as health services back home.

That said, there are still a lot of hurdles ahead to get all these people safely back.

Scores are in East Timor, working as teachers. Schools there were closed this week, and ‘insults’ directed at foreigners have apparently increased as locals see the pandemic as the fault of people from ‘the outside’.

Other nationals are stranded in Panama, Mongolia, Costa Rica, the Maldives; there are even some in Egypt and Iran.

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