Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has been asked to implement a “more robust repatriation strategy” for getting Londoners and other Britons home from other countries where they have become stranded due to the coronavirus crisis.
In a letter to the minister, Unmesh Desai, the London Assembly Member for City & East constituency, has asked for an expansion of the foreign office’s emergency loan scheme for to “assist the increasing number of British nationals who have been left destitute” and whether the government would consider using its “military capacity” to assist with repatriation if necessary.
Desai refers to “thousands of other British nationals” as well as his own constituents who “desperately need you to act now to help them to get back to their families during these extraordinarily difficult times.” He asks Raab to consider consulting the German government on their approach to “registering their citizens who require urgent assistance” and also to address what he calls the reported “fractured and sometimes unreliable communication” from British embassies and consulates”, which he acknowledges are under “huge pressures”.
Desai’s fellow AM Navin Shah (pictured) is among Britons caught in India, where flights out of the country have been cancelled at short notice. The BBC has reported UK citizens there saying they fell abandoned by their home government while arrangements are in place for German counterparts to be brought home this week.
Shah has appealed to Raab on Twitter over the weekend, drawing attention to the Indian government’s decision to extend a ban on “all scheduled international commercial passenger services” until the evening of 14 April, and saying he hopes his plans will include India. He has written his own letter to Raab from Mumbai, describing himself as one of “thousands” of Britons strand in India and as unable to communicate with the High Commission by either phone or email. Shah has also complained about a lack of communication from Air India.
The British government has estimated that the total number of Britons marooned across the world could be anywhere between 300,00 and a million, including young Londoners stranded in Indonesia and Peru. Vauxhall MP and Lambeth & Southwark AM Florence Eshalomi has today reported a constituent arriving back in London from Peru, and urged to Foreign Office to “urgently bring back remaining citizens stuck in Peru and other countries across the world”. Sadiq Khan is understand to also be pressing the Foreign Office on behalf of Londoners.
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