The government will not evacuate Kenyan nationals stuck abroad as the spread of the novel COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the world.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Amb. Macharia Kamau said the cost of evacuating citizens is too high.
Amb. Kamau pointed out that there are an estimated 3 million Kenyans in foreign countries hence evacuating a fraction of them would prove difficult.
He further noted that chartering flights in different parts of the world is not the same as hiring a matatu.
“Those asking us to send planes, should know that it is difficult. Some Kenyans are in Hungary, some in China, others in Italy. That means planes will be hovering all over the world. Ndege sio matatu bwana,” he said.
“Mr Chairman, truthfully, evacuation is not a viable option. I am sorry.” he continued.
The PS also disclosed to the committee that Kenyans who has sought to be evacuated along with UAE nationals did not show up despite “shouting on social media”.
“The other day, an Emirates plane was coming to Nairobi and there were over 300 people shouting on social media, ‘evacuate us’, we are ready to pay. When the time came, only 13 agreed to pay. Only 13… I’d be the happiest person if there were people out there who would want to come back and pay for themselves.”
On Tuesday, the PS said the ministry was overwhelmed with distress calls from Kenyans stranded abroad.
He noted that the most affected are in the US, Canada and Middle East.
Those in Italy, Spain, France and UK have also been severely affected.
According to the PS most of these people have lost their jobs or have been sent on unpaid leave.
“We find ourselves uniquely challenged in responding to distress calls from our diaspora in over the 140 countries we have a foot print. Our embassies are only in 54 countries and out staff are overwhelmed,” he said.
There are some 160 people stuck in India, some of whom had traveled for medical purposes. Kenyan students are also stuck in Spain, 21 others in Hungary and 61 training assistants stranded in France.
“The situation is worrying, some have run out of money and some sadly lost patients with whom they went for treatment and it’s tragic that they cannot bring their loved ones homes,” he averred.
Asked about the Kenyans in China who were apparently kicked out of their homes, the PS said the matter was blown out of proportion.
He also noted that the Asian country has already apologized for the incident.
“The Chinese government has apologized. Maybe the reason why this hasn’t been known is because they haven’t apologized on social media. Chinese govt is not known to do things on social media. Maybe I’d advise them to apologize again and maybe louder,”