'Dozens of Fifers' still trapped abroad

Some Fifers have been unable to travel.Some Fifers have been unable to travel.
Some Fifers have been unable to travel. | JPIMedia
Many residents of Fife will still be stuck abroad due to cancelled and grounded international flights despite UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office intervention, according to a Fife MP.

The government announced on Monday evening that tens of thousands of Britons stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic will be flown home under a new arrangement between the government and airlines. These measures however will still leave dozens of Fifers stranded abroad with no means of getting home.

One particular issue facing those stranded in New Zealand who are not permitted to use domestic flights if they are not New Zealand nationals, and the only flights they can use to fly home are flying out of Auckland.

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MP for North East Fife Wendy Chamberlain is calling for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to do more to return constituents stranded abroad to the UK. In her letter to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Wendy Chamberlain details 17 cases, encompassing 39 constituents stranded in New Zealand, Cambodia, Australia, Honduras.

One of these constituents Jack McLean has managed to return from Cambodia despite receiving no support from the Foreign office.

Jack has now returned to the UK after a British citizen, a schoolteacher from East Sussex, chartered a flight home for 100 Britons.

“Jerry Lewis almost single-handedly, certainly without any support or guidance from the foreign office or the UK Embassy organised the repatriation of 100 People stranded on the other side of the world.

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“While the home office was advising us to return using commercial flights that were being repeatedly cancelled, individuals have had to take it upon themselves to charter airlines to get us home safe.

“While I’m pleased that I have managed to return home safe and sound, this was incredibly distressing for all those involved, and I’m worried for those still stranded abroad without the assistance of the UK Foreign office.”

Wendy Chamberlain MP, who Mr McLean contacted for assistance, is calling for the Foreign Office to do more:

“The Foreign Office is finally working with commercial airlines and repatriating those who are stranded without a means of getting home, but this is after two weeks of inaction when this could have been sorted quickly and effectively before it became an issue.

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“Even now there are still gaps in the system, leaving dozens of my constituents in foreign countries with diminishing resources, sleeping outside airports, repeatedly booking flights that are cancelled at the last moment.

“Our government cannot continue to leave individual citizens to unilaterally do what the government should be doing to assist them. While what Jerry Lewis has done to help so many others stuck abroad is remarkable, it should never have been necessary.

“The FCO claim that they only organise government repatriations in ‘rare and exceptional circumstances’ – I would be interested to hear what the government would consider more rare and exceptional than the first global pandemic in over 100 years.”