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British Citizens Abroad: FCO Help to Return Home

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 pm on 24th March 2020.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport) 1:21 pm, 24th March 2020

Since Caroline Nokes left Government, I find myself agreeing with her on a regular basis, and I commend her for securing this urgent question.

As with everything else at the moment, I appreciate that this is a challenging and fast-moving situation, but we all have constituents stranded abroad who are worried sick about being able to get home, many of whom have no further funds to support their continued stay if that were to prove impossible. Many of us have constituents stranded in Peru, and I am grateful for the Government’s commitment on that. I have constituents stranded in Australia and New Zealand who have made every effort, as the Foreign Secretary has asked, to get home but have been blocked by cancelled flights, internal travel restrictions and international travel bans. Two of them are NHS doctors, and some of them have health issues, including asthma and a chronic respiratory condition, and are running low on medicines. I am sorry to say this, because I know that the service is hard-pressed, as the Foreign Secretary outlined, but they have all been particularly scathing about the lack of consular support available.

Can the FCO commit to providing clarity about the situation directly to UK citizens abroad who are worried and isolated, and about support for returning home, or support from UK embassies to get accommodation and access to healthcare that they need, should that not be possible? I strongly urge the Foreign Secretary to support citizens to get home, whatever it takes. In addition to our own citizens, will he commit to ensuring that all foreign nationals living in the UK will be treated with compassion and flexibility should they find themselves in need of essential treatment and care in this country, particularly if they are not able to imminently return home? Will he pass on the Government’s support to concerned embassies that are trying to look out for their citizens?