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Switzerland writes off small portion of flight repatriation bill

Repatriated passengers arrving in Geneva in March, 2021.
Repatriated passengers were expected to cover 80% of their flight bills. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

The majority of stranded Swiss people repatriated during the first pandemic wave have paid back their share of flight bills. But the foreign ministry has been forced to write off CHF210,000 ($230,000) and is still haggling over another CHF360,000.

In spring 2020, Switzerland arranged for over 7,000 people (4,000 Swiss and 3,000 non-Swiss) to be flown home from countries that were going into Covid-19 enforced lockdowns.

The government agreed to cover 20% of the CHF7.5 million bill to carry out the “historic” repatriation effort.  

Some 7,100 invoices were sent out to people who were expected to stump up the remaining 80% of the flight fares themselves. They were expected to pay their share within 30 days of receiving bills.

So far, around CHF6.9 million of the CHF7.5 million debt has been paid, the foreign ministry told news agency Keystone-SDA on Thursday.

But not all the money will be recovered because some debtors could not be found or were declared insolvent. In addition, the authorities have gone to the courts to recover some outstanding debt – confirming an earlier report in the Blick newspaper.

The repatriation program in March and April 2020 chartered 35 flights to retrieve citizens in countries as far flung as Peru, Chile, Morocco, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.

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SWI swissinfo.ch - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR