With travel restrictions and border shutdowns in place, travellers stuck at airports and border crossings are struggling to get home.

From newlyweds and migrant workers to students studying abroad, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a nightmare for tens of thousands of people who are stranded on cruise ships, at land borders and at airports.   

About 20 Malaysian workers spent the night outside the Kranji MRT station in Singapore sleeping outdoors, as the Malaysian government imposed the movement control order on March 18. Karanji is one of the main stops for people who are travelling in and out of Singapore to Johor Bahru on the Malaysian side.

The lockdown which will last from March 18 to March 31, sparked a rush across the causeway. There are about 400,000 Malaysians working and studying in Singapore who cross the border on a daily basis. Many Malaysians who work in the cleaning and manufacturing industries in Singapore were not prepared for the lockdown and they were seen walking across the border with their luggage the night before the borders closed.

Similarly, Kashmiri students from India-controlled Kashmir studying in Pakistan are waiting at Wagah Border to be allowed to enter India. As the student hostels have been evacuated in Pakistan, they are stuck at the border with nowhere to go.

In the meantime, almost 1,300 Pakistani students are still stranded in China due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the government announced that a special Pakistan Air Force would carry a 15-day food supply and other necessary commodities on March 19 for its students. 

Closed borders, nationwide lockdowns and cancelled flights are posing an additional challenge to governments worldwide to bring their citizens home, while they are also dealing with the pandemic. 

Hundreds of Americans are stranded in Peru, Honduras, Argentina, Morocco, China, Guatemala and other countries amid the spread of novel coronavirus. Reaching out to the media and netizens with hashtags on the internet and complaining about the government abandoning them, many have turned to each other creating WhatsApp and Facebook groups.

While the UK's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says up to a million Britons may be stranded abroad because of the coronavirus, he admits: “If they can stay safely in the countries where they are for a period, I think that’s a choice they will have to think very seriously about.”

Thousands of British tourists and expats are stranded in Spain - which is the UK’s most popular holiday destination - after the country entered an unprecedented two-week lockdown. At least 30,000 UK tourists are also thought to be stuck in France as ski resorts close. 

As the global pandemic wreaks havoc on travel plans, hundreds of Canadians are also stuck in Peru where the country remains in a tight lockdown enforced by police and the military. Unable to venture far from their hotel, many Canadians also turned to Facebook groups to seek support complaining that Canada’s embassy has been unhelpful, giving out of date information and only vague responses to emailed queries. 

Citizens meanwhile blamed their governments, mostly from developed economies, for overcharging for rescue flights.

Amidst the chaos, Turkey was applauded when it designated a plane to bring home 10 Turkish citizens from Berlin, Germany. A Turkish Airlines official’s emotional address to passengers went viral where he says “Let’s love our nation and be good citizens. Let’s not forget what our country does for our sake. This government is flying a plane for 10 citizens. We should be grateful.”

The scenes of chaos among stranded passengers worldwide illustrate how governments — that have jurisdiction over customs and are responsible for screening arrivals from abroad for signs of illness — are struggling to come up with new rules and procedures to deal with the situation efficiently. The biggest concern they are facing is to deal with dense crowds, which are considered to be  a serious health hazard, one  that could speed up the spread of coronavirus.

[NOTE:The article came from TRT World’s Eyes on Discrimination (EOD) Centre, which monitors and reports on offences, hate crimes and discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin and religion, or other related social categories.]

Source: TRTWorld and agencies