Image via: Adobe Stock
A group of South Africans, desperate to get to Germany for various reasons, have had to stay put due to the ongoing German travel ban.
Image via: Adobe Stock
The German travel ban is no longer justified, says a group of highly frustrated South Africans. These citizens, who have been banned from the European country for months now, say their lives have been put on hold – love, work, studies, you name it – meaning they have found themselves in a complete state of limbo.
South Africa is one of 11 countries that has been identified or categorised by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) as a “virus variant area”. South Africa, in particular, was handed the title on 13 January 2021.
Dr. Richard Lessells from Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) said there is no reason for South Africa to be “singled out” based on the Beta variant.
The South African spoke to Kelly Dido, an advocate for the German travel restrictions to be eased, and she said some countries were given leniency based on the fact that they are Delta variant dominant like Germany.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD), Beta was 25% more transmissible compared to the original lineage and the Delta variant is 97% more transmissible than the original lineage.
Back in March, 121 countries denied visitation rights to South Africans, and a further 95 nations imposed strict quarantine rules on Mzansi travellers. Skyscanner’s interactive map, which collated data from 225 territories across the world, concluded that 96% of them had strict rules that either prohibited or limited travel from SA at the time. Back then, only nine countries were willing to allow South Africans in.
The German travel ban is taking no prisoners and only German citizens, citizens of the EU countries and third-country nationals with permanent residence are shielded from the ban. Unmarried partners can apply for an exemption, however, they need to provide a “compelling reason” and must enter Germany together at the same time.
Dido, who is currently based in Cape Town, received a job offer in Germany three months ago. She says the requirements for entry keep changing, making it utterly impossible for South Africans to enter.
“We continue to receive no word from the officials about when these restrictions can be lifted or when visa applications can be processed again. We regularly contact the German Consulate and Embassy in SA, the German Ambassador to SA, the Robert Koch Institute, and the German Federal Ministry of Health, the Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Interior, Building and Home Affairs, who are responsible for the decision,” she said.
Dido’s visa application has been approved, however, she’s not allowed to begin what she calls her “new chapter”.
“Every day, I check the news, patiently waiting to hear when I can board a flight to continue my career. I only wish to grow professionally and contribute economically to the country,” she said.
Dido gave up her job, her apartment and her livelihood for the move to Germany. She sold all her belongings and packed only three big suitcases for her new life in Europe.
“I now have none left, only a depleting savings account. I go vagabonding about the world, moving from home to home, hesitant to settle down as anything can change at any moment. But nothing has changed. It’s been months now,” she said.
Dido, who didn’t want to get into a lease agreement due to the fickle nature of the situation, has been moving around living out of suitcases. She is currently in a friend’s apartment that is available until mid-August. In the meantime, she stays up to date with the news and works tirelessly to find a solution to the ongoing German travel ban.
Dido said she quickly went from being super excited about the job to feeling immensely defeated.
“I felt lonely in my situation until I started connecting with others with who I could share, and together we support and encourage one another. We share the frustrations; I think we are now a cohort of well over 100 [people],” she said.
“I hear many stories – spouses forced apart, families torn apart, and young adults like myself who cannot pursue their dreams,” she added.
A couple by the names of Chantelle and Thomas have been separated for seven months due to the German travel ban. Chantelle and their daughter were preparing to move to start their lives as a family with Thomas in Germany. They were to be married and their daughter would start school in Germany. Everything was perfectly planned until the ban kicked in, in January 2021.
“Our family is now separated. Thomas had to go back to Germany for work, our daughter was unable to register for school this year and our wedding date has been postponed more than three times,” she said.
To make matters worse, Chantelle and Thomas need to start this process all over again as their documents have now expired.
Jethro, another frustrated citizen, postponed his final year of Mechanical Engineering to partake in a one-year exchange programme at HTWG Konstanz. Months later, he has incurred 1 900 Euros (more than R32 000) in expenses on rent in Germany, and he is about to lose the opportunity to partake in an external internship.
“Our lives are at a standstill, a discouraging limbo. There is little to no hope in sight for many of us. Sadly, this has put a strain on our lives, giving rise to various severe mental health issues,” said Dido.
We asked what they need from both SA and German governments and they had a list of suggestions for the powers that be, to consider.
They asked that the South African government support them and intervene on their behalf with urgency. They also asked that they be transparent and provide regular updates as families have suffered for months, and in some cases, more than one year.
To the German embassy in South Africa, they request that the exemptions be reviewed and interpreted following the RKI and German Federal Foreign Office.
“We have noted discrepancies with other Virus Variant countries like Brazil. Give us our visas to have the option to quarantine in a third country as Brazil has been allowed to do,” they said.
To the German government, they request that they assess countries using clearly defined, standardised scientific criteria.
“For South Africa to be treated the same as the UK with similar epidemiological situations, to relook all Virus Variant countries where Delta is the dominant strain and downgrade them to high-risk areas, following quarantine and testing regulations,” they said.
The South African reached out to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) and it said it is in ongoing discussions with Germany through diplomatic channels on the matter.
“Our ambassador Stone Sizani is also engaging the relevant departments in Germany. We are hopeful that the matter will be resolved,” said Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela.