A Kuils River woman who is stranded in Bangkok, Thailand, says she is desperate to return to South Africa before she becomes a “beggar in a foreign land”.
Strapped for cash and living between two friends, Jocelyn Beukes, 40, says she has not been able to work during a lockdown that started in Thailand on February 29.
She started working in Thailand in 2018 to financially support her now 10-year-old son. Before the lockdown, she worked at an IT company during the week and taught English over weekends. She says her savings are depleted and she can’t afford the R40 000 to charter a flight.
Ms Beukes could not hold back tears as she told Northern News her story. “We have been working from home, and six weeks ago, I received an email that my company has offered me some sort of retrenchment due to Covid 19. They can no longer afford me.”
This is her sixth week in lockdown and she says she is running out of money, fast.
“This is such an emotional journey; the scariest part is being without money in a country where I am a stranger and will soon become an illegal alien. I just want to get back home and be with my family, especially my son.”
Ms Beukes was renting a flat in Lat Phroa before moving in with a friend, who lives nearby, when lockdown started.
She says she is living out of bags and is forced to save on food supplies in case they run out.
“I hate being a burden to others. I have always been independent, but I have no choice because some of my friends from other countries are not as fortunate as I am. They are sleeping on the streets or at airports at the moment.”
Ms Beukes says with her final paycheck at the end of this month, she is left with only R2000, as her company will be deducting money it loaned her in September last year for an emergency flight when her dad fell ill with cancer.
“People think once you work in another country you are rich, but that’s not the case. We are also trying to make ends meet.”
Bangkok does not have strict lockdown rules, she says, but there is curfew from 10pm to 5am. People are encouraged to stay at home, but food markets and essential-goods stores stay open.
“People in Bangkok are poor; they open up markets to survive, so I cannot turn to them for help,” she says. “I have to be at the mercy of charity, and usually I am contributing to non-profits in Kuils River to feed the hungry. This is really sad, and I hope this nightmare will be over soon.”
Ms Beukes says she has written to political parties, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and joined WhatsApp groups of those in similar predicaments.
“A political party has given us false hope, some of us thought we would be going home over the weekend, but now we are told that we should get our own flights back home. But another political party has offered to help,” she says.
Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela says 1350 citizens have been repatriated from more than 17 countries to date. However, the department has been negotiating with other countries – who have stricter lockdown rules – to bring more citizens home.
“We don’t just decide that we are rescuing people from a specific country. Instead we have to negotiate with embassies and officials on that side. Thereafter, all precautions are taken into account and decisions are made from it.”
Those who are repatriated will have to go into quarantine for about 10 to 14 days.
“We want to assure all South Africans stranded abroad that the department is doing everything in their power to facilitate their return back home. We are appealing to those stranded, to remain patient as we explore options on how to bring them back home”
More than 350 citizens returned to South Africa at the weekend. On Saturday April 18, 80 South Africans arrived in Johannesburg from Rome, Italy and six South Africans arrived in Johannesburg from Haiti. On Sunday April 19, 206 South Africans arrived in Johannesburg from Frankfurt, 35 South Africans arrived in Johannesburg from Angola and 29 South Africans arrived in Johannesburg from Cameroon via Angola.