Thirty-six Italian boys, aged 17 to 18, stranded, barricaded in the homes of the families who host them in different cities of Honduras, one of the most dangerous and violent countries in the world, with a health system that is nothing short of poor. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 emergency, from 16 March the authorities of the Central American country – where 139 coronavirus positive cases have been recorded so far, three dead and three recovered – imposed a curfew, the army oversees the roads, the water is rationed, tension is sky high. Air, land and sea borders are barred. The experience of the young winners of the Intercultura competition has turned into a nightmare, the association founded in 1955 that sends more than 2,200 secondary school children to live and study abroad every year. And what he is doing now to get them back home.
And a nightmare live in these hours the parents of the boys stuck in Honduras, who last Friday sent a letter to the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, and to the Prime Minister to ask for help and bring their children home on a commercial or dedicated flight. “The situation there is not normal and the quarantine there is not ours. The country is starting to ration water and electricity, supermarkets are closed, there is an army that patrols all the roads and bridges and respirators can be counted on the fingers of one hand “, they wrote worried about the safety of the boys, the which remain in contact with the Italian embassy in Guatemala and Honduras. In the last few hours, the Italian authorities have received rather reassuring messages from parents on an imminent return, even if the situation is delicate and constantly evolving.
“I am in constant contact with Ambassador Edoardo Pucci, who is working on a possible solution to be implemented in a short time to bring the students back from Honduras”, says Andrea Franzoi, Secretary General of Intercultura, who to protect the safety of students has decided to end the exchange programs early in all countries. An odyssey, to bring back the over 1,200 students who were in the world at the time of the pandemic declaration by the World Health Organization. Of these, over a thousand have returned so far: 888 in recent days from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, the Philippines, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, India, Ireland, Iceland, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Slovak Republic, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Hungary, United States.
Yesterday 34 arrived, including 25 from Brazil (a second group will return in the next few days), two from Denmark, five from Uruguay, one from Spain and one from the Dominican Republic. In the next few hours, a Lufthansa plane with nine students from Latvia will land in Fiumicino, tomorrow at Malpensa, 19 students from Chile and 11 from Peru will arrive with a special Neos flight (departure Santiago de Chile, call to Lima); Also tomorrow 37 other students are expected at Malpensa from San Paolo del Brasile and at Fiumicino 25 students from Paraguay.
Once the latter have returned, about seventy will remain between Honduras (36), in fact, Bolivia (8) and New Zealand (23). «Bolivia is a militarized country. We are in contact with Ambassador Francesco Tafuri, there is a good chance of identifying a flight within this week “, continues Franzoi. As for New Zealand, the general secretary of Intercultura explains: «Qatar Airways scheduled flights are not yet blocked but very few, while Germany's special flights have been suspended. In any case, the Italian embassy is working on hypotheses, for the moment there are no special flights from the Farnesina ».
In general, Franzoi concludes, “it is a huge organizational and economic effort that our association is putting into play and that will not end until we have managed to bring all the boys back to Italy. Where possible, Intercultura intervened by purchasing new air tickets and organizing new return itineraries, taking care of all additional costs. We have also been able to count on the invaluable collaboration of the Farnesina crisis unit and on the network of Italian embassies and consulates abroad for the organization of travel. “
The story of the Intercultura students is one of many that concern our connazionali (5.3 million members of Aire, the registry of Italians residing abroad) asking to return to Italy, as shown by the data pitted by the Farnesina crisis unit: six to seven thousand calls received per day, over 1,500 emails. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 emergency 36 thousand Italians have already returned to the Peninsula with over 200 flights, to which to add 18 connections by sea, by ferry, and five by land, by bus. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaged through an intense diplomatic activity to reopen the airports for commercial flights, to facilitate the flights of the airlines Alitalia, Neos, Blue Panorama. So far from Barcelona 20 ferries have landed at Civitavecchia, each with 500-600 people on board, while Alitalia has activated special flights from Madrid to Rome. In addition, five planes leave for London every day. Where the flag carrier does not operate directly, however, the situation is more complex, pressure must be put on other companies to intensify their efforts, as in Australia. Last night, the Italian embassy in Canberra announced with a Facebook post that it had received a communication from the company Qatar Airways, according to which in addition to increasing the flights to Europe they further lowered the fares to facilitate the most the return of all to the countries of the European Union is possible. “Given the growing demand from the many European citizens returning to the European Union, we recommend compatriots who have an urgent need to return, to take action as soon as possible”, reads the post.
It is not possible to estimate how many compatriots are destined to return from the rest of the world, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, because emergencies and reports to Italian embassies in the world emerge day by day. As Minister Di Maio also pointed out in recent days, the return to Italy of an Italian citizen temporarily abroad or of a foreigner residing in Italy it is only possible if it is an absolute urgency. It is therefore, for example, allowed the return of Italian citizens or foreigners residing in Italy who are abroad temporarily (for tourism, business or other). Italian citizens forced to permanently leave the foreign country where they worked or studied are also allowed to return to Italy because, for example, they have been fired, they have lost their homes, their course of studies has been definitively interrupted. In any case, the Farnesina crisis unit invites you to register on the site
pto receive all the updated information via sms, WhatsApp, email. The consular offices spread over the five continents can provide a subsidy to Italian citizens permanently resident in their consular district, registered with the Air and who are in a situation of proven need. In addition, a loan may be granted to Italian citizens temporarily abroad and residing in Italy or in another consular district, who are facing unexpected economic difficulties and who cannot avail themselves of the help of family members or third parties. the interested party agrees to return to the Treasury within 90 days.
Finally, it should be remembered that
the order signed on March 28th
by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Paola De Micheli and by the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, provides for the obligation of quarantine and self-certification on where it will be spent for all those who enter Italy from abroad. A new squeeze on all entrances to our country, whether by land, sea or air. The provisions obviously also concern Italians still stuck abroad who, once returned, will have to comply with the new measures. With the hope that among these there are also the 36 boys still in Honduras.