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British Citizens Imprisoned Overseas and Coronavirus

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Tulip Siddiq Tulip Siddiq Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn 5:02 pm, 2nd March 2020

I have raised the concerns about the health of my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe several times in the Chamber, but today the situation is potentially fatal. The prison in which Nazanin is being held hostage has reported cases of coronavirus. She is seriously ill and is displaying symptoms associated with the virus. Her family are desperately worried about her and, Madam Deputy Speaker, I do not blame them.

Coronavirus is spreading through Iran at an alarming rate, as the Minister has just said, and Iran has actually pulled some of its own prisoners out of jails. Britain is pulling its non-essential staff out of the Tehran embassy in Iran. Yet the Iranian authorities are point-blank refusing to test Nazanin for coronavirus or any other British citizens in their jails. The United Nations Human Rights Council has made it clear that, under both Iranian and international law, Iran must provide medical treatment to Nazanin and British citizens like Nazanin.

What representations has the Minister made to Iran to test Nazanin specifically for coronavirus and to provide the full results? What assurances can he give that any results given by the Iranians will be reliable? The key point is that if we leave British citizens in harm’s way for long enough, they will come to harm. The Government face important choices over Nazanin’s case in the coming months. They must do everything possible to secure her permanent release and bring her back home.

Bearing that in mind, what instructions has the Prime Minister given to departmental and Government lawyers to resolve the debt that Britain owes to Iran? I read with interest the Iranian ambassador’s comments this afternoon about co-ordinating with British authorities to purchase urgent medical items—the Minister referred to that in his answer. Will he set out what humanitarian supplies the UK is providing to Iran to help it to tackle its growing public health crisis? Was my constituent’s potentially fatal medical condition mentioned in negotiations?

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s life hangs in the balance. I urge the Government to act and to act now.