Patricia Gibson MP has called on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab MP to apologise to those UK citizens abandoned overseas by the UK Tory Government when the pandemic struck, after Westminster’s Foreign Affairs Committee released a highly critical report into the Tories’ abysmal effort at bringing home citizens stranded abroad during the pandemic.
The cross-party select committee found the repatriation operation had been too slow, the UK Government was too reliant on commercial airlines and advice given by consular services, when available, was often misleading or confusing.
Patricia formally wrote to the Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the end of March urging him to do more to help people stranded overseas during the coronavirus crisis, after been contacted by worried constituents far from home who found themselves left in limbo by travel agents, airlines and insurers as the Covid-19 shutdown circled the globe.
“This is a damning report. UK citizens abroad when the pandemic became a worldwide crisis found themselves in increasing difficulties as holiday resorts closed down, flights were cancelled, and travel visas expired.
“While other European countries quickly chartered planes to bring their citizens home, those from the UK were stuck in airports looking on as the Tory Government dithered. Embassies and consular services were almost impossible to get hold of, while those airlines still flying hiked up the cost of flights and overbooked them.
“The Committee’s report, which states that too many UK citizens were not provided with the support they should ‘reasonably expect to receive,’ notes that by the end of June, only £40.5 million from a £75 million fund to pay for charter flights had been spent. This comes as little surprise, given the experience of many people left to fend for themselves, often for weeks, at a time of international crisis. Indeed, whilst the UK chartered only 186 flights for 1,300,000 nationals, 260 flights were chartered by Germany for 260,000 citizens.
“The UK Government’s incompetent handling of this crisis has been shambolic from the outset, and Mr Raab should have the decency and humility to apologise to the hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens that he failed in their time of need.”
The Foreign Affairs Committee report is at: