Egypt 'refuses' appeals to repatriate stranded citizens in blockaded Qatar
Egyptian authorities rejected appeals by hundreds of nationals in Qatar to assist them in returning to their homeland amid the ongoing global health pandemic, the unnamed official said.
Qatar offered to fly the Egyptians - who launched a campaign across social media platforms in a bid to return home - back to Egypt, but Cairo authorities refused the assistance.
The Qatari official said although the permits allowing the Egyptians to remain in Qatar have expired, Doha has provided the group of 400 with free-of-charge residence while necessary measures are being planned.
"Sisi, send a plane to retrieve them! Or are you just boasting of aid planes to Italy, and repatriating people from London, Kuwait and other place? Save these people! What a shame! They are Egyptians," media personality Samy Kamal Al-Deen said on Twitter, addressing Egypt's president.
The tension between Egypt and Qatar comes amid an ongoing blockade of the Gulf state, which Egypt has imposed alongside Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain.
Both Qatar and Egypt are battling with the novel coronavirus outbreak which has since December killed 70,328 and infected 1,284,805 worldwide.
Qatar has confirmed 1,604 cases and four deaths while Egypt has 1,173 positive diagnoses and 78 deaths. Experts believe the outbreak in Egypt is much worse than is being officially acknowleged.
In a statement published by Bahrain's governmental National Communication Centre, Manama warned Qatari authorities against "interfering in [repatriation] arrangements through operating commercial flights that expose all passengers on those flights to health perils resulting from the outbreak of the coronavirus".
"The Qatari authorities should follow the precautionary rules and measures necessary to protect health and safety of passengers, aircraft crews and staff of different airports in line with the International Air Transport Association systems," it added, according to Bahrain’s news agency BNA.
The statement came after Qatar announced it would welcome 31 Bahraini nationals who arrived in Doha from Iran. The group of Bahrainis had been refused assistance from their government in Manama and were thus left stranded in Qatar.
The four countries accused Doha of backing radical Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and seeking closer ties with Saudi arch-rival Tehran, an allegation Qatar strongly denies.
"As Bahrain does not allow commercial flights from Qatar, the State of Qatar inquired with officials in Bahrain as to how Qatar could assist in the travellers’ efforts to return home," a Qatari statement said on Saturday.
"Qatar offered to fly the Bahraini citizens on a private charter flight to Bahrain at no expense to the individuals or the government of Bahrain. The government of Bahrain declined this option."
Doha confirmed it would conduct coronavirus tests for the 31 Bahraini citizens and provide adequate accommodation for the group in a "quarantine hotel at no cost".
"Those testing positive will receive free and full health care at once. Those testing negative will continue to observe self-isolation for two weeks at a quarantine hotel, at no expense to them," the statement added.
Bahrain later said it would send a flight to repatriate the group of nationals.