Coronavirus: Barking and Dagenham tourists struggling to return home

Dame Margaret Hodge. Picture: Office of Dame Margaret Hodge

Dame Margaret Hodge. Picture: Office of Dame Margaret Hodge - Credit: Archant

More than 25 people from Barking and Dagenham are still struggling to get home after lockdowns overseas left them stranded.

Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge has demanded the government scale up efforts to bring back all those stuck in other countries.

Dame Margaret has received pleas for help from at least 30 constituents trapped in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Albania, the USA, Pakistan, Cuba, Columbia, Uganda and Argentina.

But of the total, only two have made it back so far. There are 12 constituents in Bangladesh alone.

Commercial routes in India are open, but the country’s lockdown restrictions mean people cannot travel across the country to get to airports outside their local area.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab leaves Downing Street
Photo: PA / Kirsty O'Connor

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab leaves Downing Street Photo: PA / Kirsty O'Connor - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Dame Margaret said: “It has been painful to listen to stranded constituents who desperately want to return home but are unable to due to very limited travel options.

“The government must boost its efforts to bring all British nationals home safely. Right now the government’s approach is simply not comprehensive, in some countries a flight has been put on by the government and in other countries there are no flights at all.”

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She called for a “scaled-up” effort providing more charter flights as the only viable option now that commercial airlines are not flying regular routes. And she urged anyone stranded abroad, or their relatives, to contact her.

More than 30 opposition MPs wrote to foreign secretary Dominic Raab on April 14 urging him to repatriate British citizens from Bangladesh and raising concerns about the cost of flights.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.

“The government has partnered with a number of airlines who have committed to work together to get Brits back to the UK and up to £75million has been made available for charter flights where commercial options are no longer available. We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.”

Robert Chatterton Dickson, the British High Commissioner in Bangladesh, said staff were making “good progress” with plans to charter flights from Dhaka.

Are you stuck in a foreign country waiting to return to Barking and Dagenham? If so, please email reporter jonathan.king@archant.co.uk to share your experiences.

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