Travel ban wedges itself between long-distance lovers
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Cape Town - Couples in long-distance relationships between South Africa and Germany are hoping to have authorities take heed of their urgent pleas to be reunited, and are citing that the separation raises a serious mental- health issue.
The Love Is Not Tourism Germany activist group has appealed for help from the German Embassy and expressed its frustration at the current travel bans in place.
Robert and Dolores* are one such couple affected by the ban. The pair have declined to use their real names as they are trying to re-apply for Robert’s visa and fear publicly speaking about it may negatively affect the application process.
Robert and Dolores, who is based in Germany, got hitched in January 2020, after three years together. The couple met in South Africa through their mutual work in wildlife conservation.
“Once the research project ended, I had to leave SA and was beginning a new research position in Egypt, so we decided to try long distance.
“However, we have once again been separated due to Germany’s strict entry requirements. Even though they state there is a marriage exemption, the embassy has not given Robert a visa. I had no issues getting a visa because I’m American. We want to start a family and our lives together but are not able to do so because of Germany's restrictions. Robert is applying again in SA for his visa, but given the results of other married couples, we do not have much hope,” said Dolores.
Couple Edward Madidimalo and Alina Nolte said their lives have been put on hold as they have had to postpone their wedding twice during the pandemic due to the travel ban.
The couple have been together for nearly five years after having met in Johannesburg, said Madidimalo.
“The very long time apart is draining, emotionally and financially. We managed to apply for my marriage/family reunification visa with the embassy and it got approved by now but the travel ban that is in place doesn't allow me to enter Germany.
“We do not fit into any exceptions that are in place at the moment. We, therefore, had to postpone our wedding twice already. It's an emotional disaster as I have planned to live in Germany by now and am basically sitting on packed suitcases waiting to be allowed to enter Germany, marry and start a life together,” said Madidimalo.
A representative of the group, Claire Millward, said partners were separated for a large part of last year as borders were closed for travel between March and October. They were able to see each other during a short window period.
“On January 30 (2021), Germany removed the ability for long-distance partners to obtain a 90-day Schengen visa due to SA being classified as a mutation area. So essentially, the ‘unmarried partner visa’ was only in place for a few months and was retracted on the basis of the mutation,” said Millward.
Numerous enquiries to the German Consulate in South Africa were unanswered by deadline.
In a statement on the German Consulate’s website last month, a number of restrictions were communicated relating to the travel ban.
"Travellers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or those having recovered from a Covid-19 infection do not enjoy any privileges under the travel ban when coming from an area of variant of concern.
"Although it is currently possible to submit a national visa application the visa itself will not be issued as long as the above-mentioned travel ban is in place, unless one of the exceptions applies to your case," the statement read.
There are only a few, strictly defined exceptions to the travel ban which includes partners in an existing relationship with one of the persons under one-three years old sharing a joint household.