Coronavirus: London Assembly member stranded overseas says Brits abroad are ‘forgotten citizens’

Navin Shah, Labour Assembly member for Brent and Harrow. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg

Navin Shah, Labour Assembly member for Brent and Harrow. Picture: Jonathan Goldberg - Credit: Archant

Brent’s London Assembly member is among hundreds of thousands of Brits stranded abroad after flights were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Navin Shah is in Mumbai with his wife, Rekha, having arrived on March 8 to attend his brother’s funeral.

The UK government has launched a £75 million operation to charter rescue flights to help bring an estimated 300,000 British citizens back from around the world.

Mr Shah said: “I welcome Dominic Raab’s announcement but am surprised it’s taken so long when there’s been an outcry from our nationals stranded across the world and their heart wrenching stories published widely.

“Through the help of the EU, Germany has organised 13 flights and Austrian flights have brought back their citizens.

“Working with Air Canada, I hear Canada is organising repatriation programme. Surely the British government has similar opportunities too. For instance they can work with British Airways who’ve grounded their flights at Gatwick. I believe there’s also option of working with other governments, for example the Indian government who I’m sure would cooperate, particularly if the programme of repatriation includes plans to take Indian citizens trapped in the UK back to India.”

Jan Thompson, acting British high commissioner to India, said on Wednesday: “We are working flat out with airlines and with the relevant Indian authorities to get the flights in.

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“I know how impatient you are to hear confirmed details of flights and I hope to have those details for you very soon.”

Mr Shah said: “My wife and I are the fortunate ones in that we have our extended families here and therefore we’re well looked after. But its the big picture that I’m after and am deeply concerned about. I want the government to get their act together.

“Widespread reporting of hardships and misery faced by Brits here is true... Brits running out of resource and have literally no where to go. Tragically there is no end of the tunnel for them.”

He said the Foreign Office and the British High Commission are struggling to provide support and guidance to the stranded Brits who he said are “forgotten citizens”.

He warned that the ban on international commercial passenger flights could be extended by the Indian government beyond its current end date of April 14.