In a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP has called for the government to take urgent action to repatriate British citizens stranded in countries across the world, writing that “for too many British citizens there is a growing sense they have been abandoned.”
In the letter, the Shadow Foreign Secretary calls on the government to:
- Address the disparity between the approaches taken by different Embassies by ensuring that information about flights is well-publicised and registers are kept of British citizens who get in contact;
- Establish clear MP liaison arrangements so that MPs can properly support and reassure their constituents;
- Crack down on airlines charging vast sums for flights home by introducing a cap on the amount that can be charged, and be willing to charter flights where necessary;
- Step in where travel insurers fail to support British citizens in financial difficulty.
- Urgently repatriate medical staff stranded overseas.
Full text of the letter
Dear Foreign Secretary,
I am writing to ask that you urgently intervene in order to get a grip on the plight of British citizens stranded in dozens of countries across the world. Many are running out of money or medicine, worried about their accommodation and have no idea when or if they might be able to get a flight home.
I welcome the steps the Government has taken, including providing some funding for flights, but as the situation persists, I must ask that you urgently address the following problems.
There is a huge disparity between the proactive approach taken by some Embassies and the approach taken by others. Can you ensure that information about flights is well-publicised and registers are kept of all British citizens who make contact in order to disseminate information as soon as possible?
Many British citizens have turned to their MPs for help but it is becoming virtually impossible for MPs to find accurate or helpful information. The phone line is overwhelmed, the information that is provided is often generic and the email address given out by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was closed this week with no notice. You must, as a matter of urgency, establish clear MP liaison arrangements so that MPs can support and reassure their constituents in a time of great need.
It has become apparent that some airlines are charging vast sums for flights home. This is exploitative and must be challenged. In addition some airlines are refusing to reimburse passengers for cancelled flights leaving them fearful of booking others. This must be dealt with swiftly and a cap placed on the amount that can be charged.
Where commercial flights are unavailable or unreliable, the Government must overcome its reluctance to intervene and charter flights. I understand the Government has concerns regarding the cost but these are British citizens, many of who have now been stranded for some time, and they must be brought home.
Simply offering loans to those who are running out of money in these exceptional circumstances is not a solution. Where British citizens are running out of money they must be provided with financial support. If their travel insurance will not cover them the government must become the insurer of last resort.
Finally it has been brought to my attention that a number of medical staff are currently stranded overseas. For obvious reasons it is in our interests to ensure they come home quickly.
May I thank you for seeking to ensure airspace is reopened and transit hubs continue to operate. I am aware of the amount of work put in by FCO staff across the world. Despite this, for too many British citizens there is a growing sense they have been abandoned. Therefore I am asking that you resolve this as a matter of urgency.
Lisa Nandy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs