Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman on March 4 criticized Bahrain for not cooperating in repatriation of 1300 Bahraini tourists and pilgrims from Iran where coronavirus infections are on the rise by the day.
In a statement on Wednesday, Seyyed Abbas Mousavi said the Iranian Foreign Ministry has taken measures and made arrangements in order to repatriate foreign citizens to their countries as a precautionary and preventative action against the coronavirus outbreak.
Unlike many other regional countries, Bahrain has not taken any steps to take their citizens back and even not accepted the proposals made to it by “some people", the Foreign Ministry Spokesman said.
Calling the behavior of the Bahraini government towards its nationals “irresponsible”, Mousavi said there are around 1300 Bahraini citizens in Iran now who came for pilgrimage and tourism who have had to have a long and unwanted stay because their situation is being neglected by their government.
Sunni-ruled Bahrain has engaged in a years-long crackdown on all dissent since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw its majority Shiite population demand greater political freedoms. Militants have launched small, sporadic attacks in the time since which Bahrain security forces blame on Iran. Thousands of Bahraini Shiites visit Iran’s holy cities of Mashhad and Qom every year.
“All consequences of the delay [in the repatriation of Bahraini nationals] lies with the government of Bahrain, Mousavi said.
The tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia has been hard-hit with coronavirus cases and shut down flights to halt the spread of coronavirus.
The majority of infections in Persian Gulf countries including Bahrain, Kuwait, the UAE and Oman have been diagnosed in people returning from Iran or who came into contact with those who had been there. According to Bahraini officials all of the 17 people infected with coronavirus until February 25 had returned from Iran.
On February 29 Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn't been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks. According to Bahraini officials of the nearly 2300 people who had returned from Iran in February only 310 had called authorities and undergone testing for coronavirus.