Twenty-six Algerians returning home from the UK have been trapped in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for three weeks because of COVID-19 measures.
The 26 people, including two young girls and a 75-year-old woman, have appealed to Algeria’s president to help them get home.
Their flights to Algeria were canceled after the UK variant of COVID-19 was detected in the North African country on Feb. 25.
The group, which includes British citizens, has been sleeping rough in the airport and surviving off donations from volunteers.
Air Algeria had been providing the group members with food, but stopped after they refused its offer of returning them to the UK.
One member is being cared for in hospital, while the rest receive a doctor’s visit every day. They have access to showers in a zone of the airport where there is a hotel, but they are charged €20 ($24) to use them.
“Everyone has important personal reasons to go to Algeria. My wife is there and has had COVID-19. I gave up my flat and job. Otherwise we’d go back to the UK,” said one man who wished to remain anonymous.
“It is miserable here. How long can you keep sleeping on the floor before you crack? Two weeks, three weeks, four?”
Algeria has implemented very strict border controls throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Most air and sea connections have been canceled, leaving thousands of Algerians stranded.
The Algerian Embassy in France said its consul had met the group at the airport on March 2 “to tell them it was necessary for them to go back to their place of residence until the borders reopened.”
They were told that Algiers had decided to close the borders on Feb. 28 and that no exception would be made, it said.
The French airports authority has said it is doing its best to help the group. “It is a precarious situation, but we have no say over what happens to them,” a spokesperson said. “It is down to the Algerian authorities and Air Algeria.”