Thousands of invoices still open one year after the recall | Free press

Many German tourists abroad were caught off guard by the spread of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of stranded people were taken home in a display of power. The campaign has not been completed to this day.

Berlin (dpa) – One year after the start of the largest repatriation campaign in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the federal government has collected only a fifth of the total costs from passengers with 17.9 million euros.

The goal is to get back about twice as many of the 67,000 Germans and EU citizens stranded as a result of the Corona crisis and taken home by the government. About 21,000 invoices have not yet been sent, the German Foreign Affairs news agency has learned. This is justified by the great bureaucratic effort and the difficult working conditions resulting from the corona pandemic.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) started the campaign on March 17, 2020 – exactly a year ago on Wednesday – together with tour operators and airlines after many countries closed their borders and cut flight connections at short notice. In total, about 240,000 travelers were returned. The tour operators themselves flew the tourists who had booked with them for free.

The Federal State Department chartered planes for individual travelers and other people who wanted to return. From June, the returnees will be asked to pay. At the time, the total costs were estimated at 93.8 million euros, of which nearly 40 percent must be borne by the passengers themselves. The estimated ticket prices are roughly in the range of cheaper economy tickets for the respective regions.

According to the Federal Foreign Office, about 34,953 payment messages had been sent to passengers from Germany last Friday, with another 21,000 to follow. The other passengers from other EU and third countries will not be notified individually. In these cases, the federal government wants to approach the respective home state and file the corresponding reimbursement claims.

According to the experience of the Federal State Department to date, 80 percent of bills are paid on time. However, there are passengers who oppose the payment of their return tickets in court. 113 such proceedings are currently pending.

The fact that by no means all invoices have been sent is explained to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the great effort involved in processing. “Organizing the return campaign poses major challenges for our structures,” he says. In normal years you have an average of only 800 so-called “consular cases”, ie Germans who got into trouble abroad. Now there are 67,000. In addition, the strict safety and hygiene concepts would slow down processing due to the Corona crisis – ie home office, shift work and individual office occupancy.

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