Foreign Secretary questioned on travellers returning to the UK
24 March 2020
Caroline Nokes asked an urgent question to the Foreign Secretary on what measures he plans to introduce to assist British citizens abroad to return home.
British Nationals abroad are being asked by the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, to return back immediately. This is due to the possibility of being unable to book commercial flights back, leaving Brits abroad stranded during the current coronavirus outbreak.
Dominic Raab: change of travel advice
Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary told the House:
"We have FCO staff in all our 280 posts in 168 countries and 10 overseas territories and they're working around the clock to respond to this global pandemic.
Over the last three days we've seen 80 countries place restrictions on their borders. That situation is unprecedented in scale and our overriding priority now is to assist the thousands of British travellers who need and want to return home."
He went on to say that he changed travel advice because of the "rate of new border restrictions".
He advised those who are currently abroad that live in the UK should return "as soon as possible where they are still able to because commercial routes are still running."
He carried on:
"Where commercial options are limited or prevented by domestic restrictions, we're in close contact with the airlines and local authorities in those countries to overcome those barriers to enable people to return home."
The Government is "engaging with numerous governments" to keep commercial routes open.
Update on returning from following countries
- Peru - agreed special arrangements for flights to return British nationals this week.
- Singapore - working together to help those stranded to get back to their homes in the UK. The Foreign Secretary says "Singapore's role as a transit hub, this commitment to work with us to enable UK nationals to transit via Singapore is particularly important"
- New Zealend - The High Commission is working with airlines, airports and the Government to keep flight routes open and reopen some that have closed.
- Australia - The High Commission is working with airlines, airports and the Government to keep flight routes open and reopen some that have closed. They've also opened a register of British Nationals who are hoping to return home.
Advice for travellers
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Travel advice
Caroline Nokes: flights back to UK "not available"
Caroline Nokes responded the the Foreign Secretary's statement saying:
"Guidance issued by the Foreign Office yesterday advising British tourists to return to the UK where commercial flights are available.
"But they're not available, they're either banned entirely, trying to transit via countries where there are no layovers permitted or priced at tens of thousands of pounds and via airports expecting to close imminently."
Caroline Nokes scrutinised the Government's advice of phoning consular services saying people are unable to get through.
She went on to say:
"I asked him [Dominic Raab] today, as I asked him last week, to explain how he is working with airlines with unused planes parked at airports around the globe to bring our people home."
Barry Grinder: "desperate need of reassurance"
Barry Grinder MP said "this is not a crisis that can be resolved one traveller, one airline or indeed one country at a time."
"It's a crisis effecting British nationals in every continent.
"Many with young children accompanying them, many with worsening health conditions, running out of money and in danger of losing their accommodation.
"They're all in desperate need of reassurance from the government."
Find out more
- Watch Parliament TV: Urgent question: Assist British citizens abroad to return home
- Transcripts of proceedings in the House of Commons Chamber are available in Hansard online three hours after they happen.