SA citizens stranded in 'no man's land' at airport in Malaysia plead for help

Two South Africans are stranded at the main airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while both countries are in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Two South Africans are stranded at the main airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while both countries are in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Image: 123RF/Zamfir Cristian Ion

Two South Africans have been stranded for days at an airport under lockdown in the capital of Malaysia, sleeping on benches and having to find food and water.

They were effectively trapped in no man's land, unable to enter Malaysia because the  country is under lockdown as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and unable to fly home to South Africa.

Allan Huysamen is one of the South Africans stuck in transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He has been at the airport since March 25 when he arrived from Jakarta, Indonesia. He was scheduled to catch a flight to Doha and then to Cape Town aboard Qatar Airways.

"I had heard about the pending lockdown in SA but was checking my flights every hour to make sure they were still on schedule and on time. All looked good until I tried to board my flight to Doha at 8am on March 26," he said.

A video of him inside the airport has been shared on YouTube.

"At that point the flight was cancelled. They denied boarding, saying there is no way that we will be able to get out of Doha, so they are not allowing us to board the flight."

Huysamen said he met another South African citizen at the airport facing the same predicament.

"We are not allowed to leave the airport terminal into Malaysia because Malaysia is on lockdown. We are confined to the airport terminal here in Kuala Lumpur. Our only option at the moment is SA opening the borders for international flights."

He said they had been in contact with the South African embassy in Malaysia.

"They have been working really hard to get us into Malaysia but unfortunately Malaysia is also on lockdown. Officials in Malaysia are extremely strict and will not let us into the country.

"We have no access to beds. We have built beds from airport benches. We have not been looked after by the airline at all, apart from them giving us a blanket after four days because we kept asking. The gate [boarding] area is extremely cold."

Huysamen said the airline had not provided food nor accommodation.

"We have been sourcing our own food through the airport."

Huysamen said they discovered  a staff canteen at the airport where they could buy food that was well-priced and relatively wholesome.

"Our basic needs are all covered for now. We probably cannot continue to live like this for the extent of the lockdown period in SA."

Huysamen said the airline was willing to allow them to board to Doha as long as they had a way out of Doha.

"I think the airline would even be prepared to fly to SA as long as airports are open. For now we wait. Hopefully the South African government comes to some decision that will allow us to get out of here."

Department of international relations and co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said minister Naledi Pandor would outline plans on Tuesday afternoon detailing how to repatriate South Africans stranded abroad.

During the weekend, the department said there were difficulties around flights because of travel restrictions to South Africa.

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