Heading back to Morocco, an expensive venture for Moroccans in the UK

Moroccan nationals, residents and students planning to travel to Morocco have been struggling to afford Covid-19 testing in the UK. Forced to undergo a PCR and antibody tests before boarding, these travelers may be forced to pay up to £ 300 each before entering Morocco.

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Earlier this week, Morocco announced it was starting a special operation, opening borders for Moroccans living abroad, students and those stranded since March as well as foreigners based in the Kingdom. The operation, which is scheduled to begin on July 15 and end on August 31, comes with a series of conditions.

One of the requirements Moroccans need to provide when traveling to the Kingdom is two types of Covid-19 tests. Before boarding, Moroccans wishing to come to the country have to carry two certificates : a negative PCR test to prove that they are not infected with the virus and an antibody one to show if they had contracted the virus before.  

In the UK, however, undergoing the two tests before boarding is almost impossible. Moroccan nationals and residents planning to travel to Morocco said that they are unable to afford the two tests, which tend to be expensive in their current place of residence.

Between the devil and the blue sea

Speaking to Yabiladi on Friday, Abdelfattah, a retired Moroccan who has been stranded in London since March, said that he was asked to «pay £ 300 for the tests» required by the Moroccan authorities.

Stranded with his wife, the Moroccan said that when authorities announced the exceptional operation, he went to the National Health Service (NHS), the publicly funded healthcare system in the UK, to enquire about the tests.

«I was told that I can’t do the tests for free and that I would have to pay privately for them», he regretted, recalling that he was supposed to be part of the group of Moroccans who were repatriated from the UK.

«I am a senior citizen and I suffer from chronic illnesses, I was told that I would be part of the list during repatriation but that did not happen and now we have to deal with all these expenses», he argued.

The cost of the tests is not the only issue this man has to deal with. It would be impossible to get the results within the required 48-hour timeframe. «We called several clinics who said that they can't get the results ready within 24 hours which means that by the time we would be ready to board, the tests would have already expired», he regretted. 

Zineb, a student in England, is in the same situation. Currently staying at a student accommodation, the Rabat-native said that she and her family are in a helpless situation.

«As a student, undergoing the two tests is very expensive», she told Yabiladi. «A PCR test can cost £ 200 and and the antibody one is at least £ 50, which is a lot», when added to other expenses, including the ticket flights.

To Zineb, it is not just about her but also about her mother who is currently stranded in France. The mother will also have to undergo the two tests to be able to return to Morocco. «Both of us need this and if my mother can’t return to Morocco I wouldn’t have anywhere to go to», Zineb said, referring to her current campus accommodation plan which will end in 10 days.

£ 600 for antibody tests only

Zineb’s situation is as frustrating as that of Anna*, a Montenegro graduate who resides in Morocco and is stranded in the UK. «My husband and my family live in Morocco and I have been stranded here due to my studies», she told Yabiladi.

Anna, who missed a repatriation operation organized by her country of origin to go back to Morocco, said that like many others she feels «confused by the new requirements».

The one thing she is certain about is the high prices of the tests. «I can’t afford them», she argued, adding that in the UK «antibody tests are only available in private clinics and that tends to be pricey».

Indeed, Fifi, a Moroccan living in the UK had to pay £ 600 for antibody tests for her and her two kids. «I have a daughter and a son and I paid £ 200 each for the antibody tests», she said.

The mother, who has to go to Morocco to visit her husband who is based in the country, said that «it is getting hard to afford all of these things», namely the plane tickets for three people, the tests and other travel expenses. «We are already in a bad situation due to the health crisis», she added.

Being a carer assistant for the NHS, Fifi is entitled to undergo the PCR tests for free with her kids. «Other people will have to get it privately because in the UK, you only get a Covid-19 test for free if you show symptoms», she explained.

The Department of Health and Social Care in the UK confirmed the same thing. «You can’t have a PCR test just because you want one», it explained, adding that for traveling «you have to procure that privately».

This explains why Moroccans and even foreigners with residence cards planning to enter Morocco will have to use their own means to come back home to their families.

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