Commission of a public enquiry into the repatriation of U.K. Citizens during COVID19.
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During the COVID19 Global Health Emergency, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office , (FCO,) announced on the 23rd March 2020 that "all UK citizens abroad should return home immediately."
This bungled and ill-timed announcement was made at the tail-end of a more-or-less complete shutdown of international airspace. Our people struggle to find any form of aviation to bring them home as suggested, with many airlines taking bookings, re-bookings and then subsequently cancelling those departures, as country after country closed airports and transit routes. The cost for some has run into thousands of pounds. One family was reported to have paid £61,000 for four of them to return home.
Following this "disaster," Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom took over a week to announce a "repatriation package of £75m" to get our people home. Over two weeks later, thousands of our citizens remain trapped abroad, some in deteriorating conditions in third-world countries. Heart patients, diabetics, cancer sufferers, HIV and other immuno-compromised persons, (to name but a few medical conditions,) are running out of medication, unable to get access to them due to intra-state border closures within the countries that they are stranded. Other's struggle for food having been turfed out of their now-closed hotels.
These people, along with those that are currently perfectly well, risk increased exposure to Coronavirus with the thought of ending up in a foreign hospital mind-numbing. Coupled with that they are having to deal with the pain of being separated from their home country, friends, families and some degree of "normality." This is a mental-health risk. Some are being beaten in the streets of the countries they are in.
How are we allowing this to happen?
Whilst this goes on, other countries uplift their citizens at a vast rate-of-knots. The United States has repatriated 450,000 of it's people from 75 countries. Canada uplifts 8,000 a day. EU states have sent many rescue flights. Ours are barely in double figures. It appears the once great "British Commonwealth" now lies in tatters.
Not only do our citizens have to deal with the above, they are also being charged to be repatriated whilst other countries do it "for free," using tax-payer funds that the vast majority of their citizens have contributed to all their working lives. Let's be absolutely clear - as have ours.
The operation is turning into a complete shambles, with some flights being charged at double, triple and more of the commercial ticket cost. One example is:
Air India - New Delhi/London Heathrow - £330. FCO repatriation flight £681.
How does this compute?
Whilst COVID19 is clearly a major national as well as international health emergency, we must remind the Foreign & Commonwealth Office that it's role isn’t domestic issues. It’s primary role in this crisis is to protect its citizens abroad and bring them home.
Why do we have thousands of short and long-haul aircraft sitting idle on runways and taxiways across the country, along with thousands of flight and cabin crew? Why aren't these planes in the air? One airline alone, our flag carrier - British Airways, has over 100 long-haul jets, currently sat in silence.
Our Foreign Secretary announces proudly on Twitter every time a repatriation flight takes off, as if heaven and earth have been moved and he has discovered the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The reality is it IMMEDIATELY needs to shift into a much higher gear - FAST. He also then ignores the pleas from the people that voted him into power to send assistance, as they desperately jump onto every tweet he makes, hoping someone will listen.
Dominic also made an unfortunate mistake recently. He tweeted that he had a "discussion with a foreign minister" of another country regarding repatriation and also discussed on the same call how, in light of that, we can use #UKAID to help them. This isn't the time for endorsing blackmail, this is the time to apply foreign pressure to the advantage of the United Kingdom for our citizens, as would any other country. Airspace and airports must open immediately for transit and UK-registered aircraft must be permitted to land. No discussion for "Aid."
We don't need to send one or two planes either - we need to mobilise an entire fleet.
It also appears that the gradual dismemberment of our British High Commissions abroad by various previous Governments, has now had a significant impact on their ability to crisis manage. Their communications are sporadic and full of conjecture phrases like "soon, working around the clock, trying." Where, when and how - that's all people need to know. This borders on negligence.
This petition calls for a public enquiry to begin into:
1. The shambles and failure of the UK Goverment, FCO and its agents abroad - The British High Commissions, who have significantly failed to deliver a duty of care to our people.
2. Expose the corruption behind the “deals” taking place with foreign states as blackmail for opening departure points.
3. The role of the airlines signing up for the repatriation flights and the price-fixing, taking bookings from passengers with no intention of/or able to operate the service, plus failing to adhere to their own general terms and conditions of carriage and/or the law of the land in terms of passenger protection.
4. Where exactly is the £75m and how is it being used?
If the money allocated is not enough, we need to find more money. Whilst we do support and love the idea that the Government has wiped out £13bn of NHS debt, (and so it should,) clearly the fingers can be clicked anytime they choose to make money or wipe it out. They IMMEDIATELY need to click a few more times, stump up the cash, get the planes flying and get all the "Dorothy's home to Kansas," RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW - not next week or next month, or perhaps next year at this rate.
Thank you for signing. Please share on social media etc. Sharing drives traffic to this petition and we need more and more signatures to make it happen. My personal fight is for my husband stuck in India with his friend who has just discovered her beloved Godson has killed himself. She can't be here at home to deal with that. I've started but I will finish - I pledge to take this forward even when my own plight is over. I will take this to the UK Government for answers but we need the signatures. Thank you, keep well, stay safe and look after yourselves and each other.
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