On 26 March Jon Cruddas MP co-signed a letter to Dominic Raab MP urging immediate action to repatriate British nationals stranded abroad as a result of global lockdown measures. There was a particular focus on those trying to get home from Pakistan, where the only option has been to book an extortionately priced flight back with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).
The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has now provided a welcome response to the letter, outlining government plans to address the situation. Last weekend three special UK-bound PIA flights carried home approximately 1000 of the most vulnerable British travellers and a further nine flights operated until 8 April.
However, whilst this is a most welcome response the flights are still being run on a commercial basis. Tickets can be incredibly expensive, and the government response has been for travellers “to speak with their insurance company and their airline about help with the cost.”
Jon Cruddas MP said “whilst this is a welcome response and shows some degree of action to support those stranded, it still relies heavily on the commercial aviation industry. Afzal Khan MP is currently compiling a further letter on behalf of those still abroad. I am urging the government to implement measures that utilise specially chartered planes, to ensure those that do not have the financial means to book a commercial flight can return home.”
In the meantime Jon is urging residents of Dagenham and Rainham, still stuck in Pakistan to check for regular updates here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. The Foreign Office are also utilising social media to increase the reach of their travel updates. If you have Twitter you can follow them at @UKinPakistan or specifically you can visit: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/pakistan