In a new report, the cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee has slammed the Foreign Office’s repatriation initiative to bring UK citizens home at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it slow and poorly co-ordinated.
Years of budget cuts and lack of leadership has left the UK unable to match its European neighbours, such as Denmark, Germany or Ireland, and repatriate its citizens trapped abroad during a deadly pandemic.
The Tory Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said that many people had received advice which was “confusing, inconsistent and lacking in compassion”. Many Motherwell & Wishaw residents will recognise this – if not from their own experience, then from that of their friends or family. This was reflected in the report’s findings that over 85% of respondents were either ‘very unhappy’ or ‘somewhat unhappy’ with the UK Government’s response.
Commenting, Motherwell & Wishaw MP Marion Fellows said:
“As soon the scale of the impact of the virus became clear, SNP MPs lobbied the UK Government to follow our neighbours – like Germany and the Netherlands – and actively organise flights to repatriate UK citizens trapped abroad.
“The lack of action in response shows the UK Government in a position it seems to be repeatedly found in these days: asleep at the wheel. There was an absence of leadership and direction from the very top of this rudderless Tory Government which impacted my constituents when they most needed help.
“I tried to ensure the safe and quick return of several constituents from abroad in the initial weeks of the lockdown by writing to the Foreign Office. In most cases, I received a standard response. In one case, a constituent was helped home by a French Ambassador. This is utterly embarrassing.
“Years of cuts have hollowed out the Foreign Office and left it unable to protect its citizens in their times of need. The UK Government needs to face up to this reality and commit now to reversing the cuts they have made to this country’s services.
“Despite the herculean efforts of individual Foreign Office staff around the world, it is painfully clear to anyone watching that years of sustained funding cuts have left the UK Government unable to fulfil its basic obligations to its citizens. The pandemic has shown this to be as true abroad as it is at home.”