LONDON - More than a thousand Algerian passengers are still stranded at Istanbul Airport, waiting for Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to repatriate them.
Several Algerians took to social media to denounce Turkish police’s mistreatment and the worsening conditions at the airport, urging the Algerian government to repatriate them.
The airport’s operator IGA said in a statement that it was working with the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish carrier Turkish Airlines to provide for the humanitarian needs of more than 1,000 Algerian visitors for several days, in particular by providing them with meals.
“The Turkish government has been trying for a week to convince the Algerian government to allow the landing of flights supposed to transport stranded passengers,” said IGA.
Algeria shut down its airspace in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Turkish police used force against Algerians at the airport and barricaded them, including children and the elderly, raising the risk of their contamination with COVID-19.
Another passenger posted a live video showing an old man having breathing difficulties.
The stranded Algerians refused Algerian consul’s request to stay in Istanbul for fear of the rapid spread of the disease in Turkey, according to Algerian media reports.
“Everything is closed, there is nowhere to buy food and even the vending machines are empty,” said several witnesses.
Some passengers said they were ready “to sleep in a gymnasium or a university city in Algeria, than to remain humiliated and thrown to the ground in a foreign country.”
“The situation at the airport is catastrophic,” said Sif Eddine Oran on his live video that went viral.
A total of 7,515 Algerian citizens have been repatriated since last Wednesday by air, sea and land, said the Interior Ministry on Sunday.
Tebboune on Monday night ordered people to confine themselves to their homes between 7.00 pm and 7.00 am in the capital Algiers and other cities hit by coronavirus.