Britons in Pakistan accuse UK government of abandoning them | World news

The government has been accused of abandoning hundreds of Britons stranded in Pakistan while sending rescue efforts for other tourists trapped overseas by the coronavirus crisis.

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, a poet from Leeds who is stuck in Pakistan, said there were more than 300 British citizens trapped in the country, including NHS frontline staff as well as elderly and infirm people who were rapidly running out of medication.

She said she had been told by British authorities that it would be impossible to repatriate the thousands of UK nationals who had gone on holiday to Pakistan in the past month.


“If you can’t bring everybody back, at least do selective repatriation because there’s really high-risk people here who need access to healthcare and the NHS,” she said. “One of the most disgusting and outrageous aspects of this right now is that the government seems to summon up charter flights whenever they need to deport people.”

Leeds poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan stranded in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic

Leeds poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan is stranded in Pakistan during the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan

Recent data shows the government spent as much as £12,000 per person on deportation charter flights in the last quarter of 2019.

There is also anger that the Foreign Office provided rescue flights for Britons stranded in China and Peru, but not Pakistan.
“There are structural decision-making processes that make it look like certain lives are more valuable than others. I wonder how many backpackers in Peru are at high risk of Covid-19 compared with the vulnerable British people in Pakistan?” asked Manzoor-Khan.

The second rescue flight for Britons stuck in Peru is expected to depart tomorrow. Hundreds of British nationals stranded in rural areas of the country received emails providing details of rescue buses that will take them to the airport in Lima.

Ammad Farooq, a doctor stranded in Pakistan.

Ammad Farooq, a doctor stranded in Pakistan. Photograph: Ammad Farooq

Among those stranded in Pakistan are senior NHS staff inlcuding Ammad Farooq, a 41-year-old consultant radiologist at the Royal Liverpool hospital. There was a “significant need” for him to return to the UK, he said.

“I’m feeling relatively helpless here with my colleague radiographers working absolutely flat out in the department with lack of equipment and protective gear as well,” said the doctor, who would be working at the tertiary centre for infectious diseasesif able to get home.

“The NHS is recruiting retired GPs, they are giving GMC registrations and revalidations to the previous consultants. It should be people like us, who are the younger cohort, who should be there providing as much support on the frontline as possible.”
Labour’s Zarah Sultana and Afzal Khan, MPs for Coventry South and Manchester Gortond, have written to the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, calling for chartered flights to be laid on for Britons stuck in Pakistan.

Sultana said it was “an incredibly distressing time to be stranded abroad” and she was particularly concerned about elderly constituents and those with underlying health conditions.

“It’s vital the Foreign Office offers support to stranded Britons and works to bring them home safely as soon as possible. With commercial flights being cancelled and prices being hiked, more government-chartered flights will be needed, as has already happened in Peru,” she said.

More than half of all British nationals in Pakistan who contacted Suhaiymah have a serious health condition, of whom at least 40 are diabetic, while at least 27 are asthmatic, she said.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said she was desperately concerned about her 19-year-old brother, who suffers from pericarditis, which causes inflammation of the lining around the heart.

“We have tried to obtain medication locally but to no avail. There is no one out there to help us with medication or flights,” she said.

“The government have spoken about repatriation flights from Peru and brought people back safely. Why should Pakistan be any different?”

The Foreign Office has been approached for comment.

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