Vigorous efforts to bring back remaining weltwärts volunteers continue
Around two weeks since Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) started a repatriation operation for North-South volunteers, the sending organisations’ vigorous efforts to bring their volunteers back safely continue. Approximately 85% of the 3,170 weltwärts volunteers originally overseas have now arrived back in Germany. Their unanticipated return does, however, also raise a series of questions for which answers will soon have to be found.
In order to finalise the operation to bring back the North-South volunteers as soon as possible due to the Corona pandemic, staff at the sending organisations, Engagement Global, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Foreign Office are communicating closely several times a day with the German embassies of the countries in which volunteers remain. They forward volunteers’ contact data and details of their exact location to the German embassies to enable repatriation possibilities to be identified for each and every volunteer. Staff are working around the clock to arrange a repatriation possibility for each remaining volunteer as quickly as possible. Approximately 85% of the 3,170 weltwärts volunteers originally overseas have now arrived safely back in Germany.
Even though the principle remains “safety before speed”, which means that the repatriation operation can occasionally take some time, efforts are naturally underway to assist all volunteers. The fact that curfews or other significant restrictions have already been in place for a while in some countries is complicating the operation.
In addition to these efforts, the sending organisations are increasingly having to manage the significantly higher level of support needed as a result of the volunteers returning to Germany. Apart from the issue of the volunteers’ insurance status, the question of how they could continue their service in Germany is also being discussed. The stakeholders in the weltwärts programme are already consulting closely in order to find suitable answers in this extraordinary situation. However, the top priority at the moment remains bringing the volunteers home safely.
The programme stakeholders would like to appeal to everyone who supports the volunteer service through donations to the volunteers or sending organisations not to suspend payments or ask for reimbursements. The substantial additional costs caused by the corona crisis are currently pushing a number of weltwärts organisations to the limit. At a time like this it is all the more important to recognise and support (as far as you can) the work done by these organisations, some of which work on an unpaid basis.