Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today raised concerns in the House of Commons about the support for people attempting to return to the UK during the coronavirus crisis. Addressing the Foreign Secretary following the announcement that the Government was advising against all foreign travel for the next thirty days, Mr Carmichael highlighted the situation of Northern Isles constituents who are currently trying to return home from outside the UK.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The Foreign Secretary is absolutely right, repatriation is a complex and costly business. That, surely, is why it is not something that should just be left to individuals and there must be a leading role from Government. Like many MPs I have had representations from constituents in Morocco who now find themselves stranded. The Ambassador’s Twitter account is telling them just to go to the airport with their passport and their ticket and see what they can fix up when they get there.
“We realise that the consular services are under stress but surely this is a moment when they must have every possible resource to provide the best possible information for our constituents.”
Responding, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab MP, said:
“I totally agree with him. We are providing the very best support, care and advice. Of course when it comes to repatriations we have secured I think it was 200 who came back from China at the outset. We are also working in relation to the Braemar cruise ship…
“We will do everything that we can. Of course the point I would make to the Right Honourable Gentleman, this situation is very fluid. The decisions that are being made on the ground in countries like the one he suggested are often happening very rapidly and the challenge for airlines and consular support is to make sure that we can respond, not just as quickly as possible but as effectively as possible.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I recognise the immense pressure that consular services are under, but we must ensure that people are supported in returning home from overseas travel in light of the new advice from the FCO. I will continue to work with consular services and FCO officials to make sure that isles constituents who having been travelling abroad can get home safely as soon as possible.”