Exterior ministry helping 1,500 Catalans overseas to get back home

New external affairs minister to call on Spanish counterpart to help stranded travelers find return flight for "reasonable" price

Exterior minister Bernat Solé (by Government of Catalonia)
Exterior minister Bernat Solé (by Government of Catalonia) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

March 30, 2020 11:54 AM

Some 1,300 Catalans abroad in different countries have so far contacted the government's external affairs department seeking help in returning home to Catalonia after finding themselves in another country when the coronavirus pandemic began.

According to the new Catalan exterior minister, Bernat Solé, his department has been in touch with more than 1,500 Catalans stranded overseas and has so far dealt with 700 cases, which works out at "150 new people attended to per day," said the minister.site

However, Solé, who was appointed external affairs minister 10 days ago, also told the Catalan News Agency that "there are many Catalans who have decided to stay in the countries they are in because of the exorbitant prices" of airfares.

Catalan minister complains of "abusive" airfares

In fact, Solé said he will contact Spain's foreign affairs minister, Arancha González Laya, to demand that Spain's authorities do something about the "abusive" cost of flights and ensure that people overseas can return home for a "reasonable" price.

While Solé said it was not his department's place to question how the Spanish foreign affairs ministry should go about repatriating citizens abroad, he defended the work of Catalonia's foreign offices in "providing a response" and "helping" Catalans around the world.

The Spanish government has consistently challenged the legitimacy of the Catalan government's network of foreign offices, but Solé defended them as "very useful tools" in "helping the return" of Catalans stranded in other countries.

Spanish institutions begin hosting citizens overseas

On Sunday, Spain's foreign affairs ministry said it has begun equipping some of its facilities abroad to take in Spanish tourists unable to return home due to coronavirus. For example, the Cervantes Institute in New Delhi, India, has hosted a score of people since Saturday.

India has decreed a 21-day lockdown and the ministry says there are 200 Spanish citizens in the country who it is helping to bring home. On Sunday, a plane carrying 300 people arrived from Ecuador, while another with 200 Spanish holidaymakers arrived from Uruguay. 

More Spanish citizens arrived back from the Dominican Republic over the weekend, while the ministry also said 62 people had landed from Bali, while in the Philipinnes there are currently 66 people waiting for a flight back to Spain.