I have been contacted by several constituents and their loved ones who are trying to ensure they can return home from places as far away as New Zealand, Australia and Mexico as soon as possible. With many countries going into lock down, airlines are either cancelling flights or hiking prices for remaining seats. Some people are also facing the real possibility of running out of money and having nowhere to stay.
It is very worrying to hear that they seem to be getting little help from British consular services overseas. I have been in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ask for their support and will continue to do what I can to make sure everyone is able to come home safely.
However, as this situation with a lack of information seems to be widespread, the SNP has now urged the FCO to set out updated guidance and practical support for UK citizens stranded overseas due to the coronavirus crisis.
Despite the FCO earlier issuing guidance calling on UK nationals to return to the UK now if they are travelling abroad, many people are stuck due to countries going into lock down, airlines hiking prices for remaining commercial flights, and people being pushed into financial difficulties and facing hurdles accessing key services and advice.
Leading for the SNP in an Urgent Question in Westminster yesterday, my SNP Westminster colleague, Shadow Transport spokesperson Gavin Newlands MP said:
“The UK government has taken positive steps to help UK nationals stranded overseas, however there are still many cases of constituents left without support and information that they so desperately need.
“With only a limited number of commercial routes home – many at extortionate rates – and more and more countries imposing stricter measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the FCO must urgently outline what support is being offered to UK citizens stuck abroad.
“Many MPs are receiving concerning cases of constituents who have no means of getting home, have health issues and need access to care, will be facing financial strain due to costs, and have had issues accessing consular advice in relevant countries.
“The reality on the ground is difficult and ever-changing – I urge the FCO to do absolutely everything in its power to repatriate UK citizens, and set out what practical and financial resources are currently being made available to those stranded UK nationals, and working effectively with UK embassies to assist citizens accessing accommodation and healthcare that they may need.”
If anyone has concerns about loved ones who are abroad and trying to get home please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.