A Manitoba couple from St. Leon is still stuck in Peru after not getting a seat on Tuesday’s repatriation flight back to Canada, continuing a more than week-long process trying to get home.
Lorraine Grenier said she and her husband, Allen, have been in Peru since March 5. They were originally scheduled to return on March 17, but COVID-19-related flight cancellations and border closures mean they have been trapped in the South American country.
They join thousands of other Canadians in the country waiting to come back. Lorraine estimates there were approximately 2,600 Canadians in Peru before Tuesday’s flight.
In total, 423,000 Canadians have registered with the voluntary Registration of Canadians Abroad Service, which allows the federal government to notify travellers about emergencies at home or abroad.
"It’s a waiting game," Lorraine said over email on Wednesday. There are two more repatriation flights scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but the couple isn’t guaranteed a seat on either one of those.
She said Canadians in Peru get an email from the Canadian embassy with a code in it, which can be used to book a seat on the flights arranged with Air Canada. The issue is some people are sharing their codes in Facebook groups or other online groups, which can prevent people who got an email from booking a flight.
"We spent all day (Tuesday) waiting for the Thursday flight. Nothing. Stayed up all night in shifts to be ready if came in. Nothing. The logistics to bookings are not refined and the systems crash," she said.
"For now we wait for email with the third flight code. Nothing else we can do."
Commercial flights have also been cancelled until May. Lorraine said she wants to see the federal government schedule more repatriation flights to get the rest of the Canadians in Peru back home.
The Canadian embassy in Peru so far hasn’t been of much help, Lorraine said. The couple walk from their hotel to the embassy two or three times per day, but she said they are told to wait for the booking code.
She said the embassy didn’t tell Canadians in Peru the border was to be closed at midnight on March 16 until the afternoon that same day.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said there may be delays or disruptions in some consular services due to limitations around the world. The spokesperson could not comment on the specific case of the Greniers or about Peru.
"Global Affairs Canada is fully aware of the very stressful situation many Canadians abroad are currently facing as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. We are doing everything we can to provide assistance under these unprecedented circumstances," an emailed statement from the department reads.
"Each consular case is different, and the type and amount of help consular officials can give depends on the situation. Due to the provisions under the Privacy Act, Global Affairs does not disclose information pertaining to specific consular cases."
Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance from anywhere in the world can call the 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted where available) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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