Some 2,200 Argentines stranded in Andorra by the coronavirus, most of them temporary workers in ski resorts on the verge of running out of money, are demanding on social networks and in the media that the government facilitate their return to the country.
"We want to go home, it's our right." On the Instagram, Twitter or Facebook account of "Stranded in Andorra," there are dozens of people who posted their photo with this message written on a sheet of paper.
According to the group, for several weeks Argentina has been repatriating its citizens but only one-by-one
"For me, Argentina is afraid (...) If the virus collapsed [the medical system] in France, Spain, Italy, we who are in the third world. We don't have the infrastructure or the material," said Ariel Campana, a 39-year-old Argentine.
A ski instructor who has lived Andorra for 12 years, Ariel was due to return to Argentina in early May. Without work for a month, his savings are running out.
Argentina "is repatriating first the tourists, and then the workers. We are going to be the last ones to go home," fears Campana, who is confined to small studio apartment with his wife, baby and a dog.
Florencia Lucas, 28, also fears being among the last to return. "Since we are close, for them, to one of the biggest sources of infection, we are going to be one of the last to return to our country," she says.
Caught between France and Spain, two of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, the small state of Andorra had recorded 29 Covid-19-related deaths on of Monday, with a population of some 70,000 people.
Lucas was working in a café at the foot of the ski slopes. "My savings allow me to be here until the end of April, but beyond that it's going to get very complicated," he said.
For Florencia, as for all the other temporary workers, this prolonged confinement, without an income, has dashed the hopes of a return to Europe next year for a new season.
The principality of Andorra, the Mecca of skiing in the Pyrenees, employs about 5,000 South Americans per season.
"The Argentine government promises us help that does not materialise," Lucas lamented.
Santiago Walter, another 34-year-old ski instructor, said he was suffering from confinement "like all the others", thought he added that being "far from home, without any certainty about a date of return, it is even more difficult.”
In early April he had packed his bags, like some 400 of his compatriots, ready to go to Toulouse by bus to catch an Air France flight to pick up the French in Argentina.
But his joy was brief: finally, "we were told that the Argentine government had not authorised repatriation," he said, bitterly.
‘Deceiving the people’
On Twitter, the group "Stranded in Andorra" sent a post tagging President Alberto Fernández on Monday: "European airspace is open Mr. President! Don't deceive people anymore!"
The group regularly conveys the distress of those suffering from health problems, including a problematic pregnancy, or serious financial problems. Panic attacks, anxiety and psychological disorders are also recorded.
Faced with the unprecedented crisis, the Andorran government has extended the period of validity of residence permits granted to temporary workers. Meanwhile, several NGOs, parishes or local officials provide food or accommodation to the most needy.
Maira Correa, who celebrated her 33rd birthday in a rented emergency studio in Andorra, was on a tour of Europe with her husband and children when the pandemic took them by surprise.
"If I have to stay here until May, I could survive, but if I have to buy a plane ticket to go back, I don't have enough money.”
She also protests the continuation in Argentina of a 30 percent tax on credit card payments abroad, with a maximum limit of US$200 per month.
"We stayed here because of a decision by the state, so we expected at least that they would collaborate with us, that they would help us," she indicated.
by Bru Noya & Marisol Rifai, Agence France-Presse