Last week Jon Cruddas MP signed a cross party letter to the Foreign Secretary urging him to consider chartered flights to bring home British nationals stranded abroad during the Covid-19 crisis.
On Monday 23 March British nationals were told to return to the UK immediately. However, following the announcement the cost of commercial flights skyrocketed and many could not afford to return. In some of the countries concerned, such as Pakistan and Bangladesh the British embassy and consulate have closed their doors leaving British nationals without support.
In light of this situation a further letter was sent to the Prime Minister from members of The Opposition urging the government to consider all of the options in bringing people home;
“we believe there must be a step change in the government’s efforts to get our people home, and would urge you to consider all options, and take every viable step, to make this happen.”
On Monday 30 March, following mounting pressure from MPs the Foreign Secretary announced that £75 million has been made available to invest in a concerted effort to bring British nationals’ home. However, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry who has been gathering data about stranded Britons said the £75m sounded good but was just more “vague promises” when scrutinised.
Thornberry said: “We were promised a new strategy on repatriations today, but for the hundreds of thousands of Brits stranded abroad and their families back home – it was just more of the same. More reliance on commercial flights, which – for too many British travellers based in too many locations – are simply not an option at present. More vague promises about charter flights, but none of the commitment or urgency other countries like Germany have put into this.”
Jon Cruddas MP added: “I can only imagine what those stranded abroad, and their families here in the UK must be going through. I have been contacted by a number of constituents in the last week who are very anxious about the situation and feel that there is very little support for them, and the government is not doing enough to repatriate their relatives.
“The announcement of £75m is a welcome one, but there needs to be a better line of communication between the government, consulates around the world, and those who are stranded abroad. The current situation is leaving many families living in uncertainty.”