The plight of many Indians stuck in the UK, unable to return home, is reflected in similar narratives from India, where Britons are facing problems in hotels and hospitals in Goa, Kerala, Punjab and other states.
A petition calling on the Boris Johnson government to arrange repatriation flights to India quickly attracted nearly 30,000 signatures, as the issue is widely reported by British news media. The stranded Britons allege they have been ‘abandoned’ with ‘no help whatsoever’ from the UK government.
Those stranded in India due to the curbs triggered by the coronavirus pandemic include many British citizens of Indian origin, who were visiting family or were on holiday. Councillor Brian Sangha from Kent is among many reportedly stuck in Punjab.
The Foreign Office says it is working “around the clock” to support the Britons and help them return home, but recognised many found it difficult to return due to “unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions”.
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway said in a statement to his affected constituents in Kent: “We do appreciate that this is a time of great anxiety for those individuals and for those who have relatives stuck in India – particularly the elderly. I know of a 91-year-old resident who is stuck”.
“Scenes of panic buying overnight and descriptions of the lockdown in India have been well documented by British news outlets. I do hope that those affected remain in good health, although I do note your point about medication which many of them require”.
“With the ban on domestic travel in India too, it will undoubtedly be extremely challenging for international governments to negotiate with the Indian government although the UK government has indicated that they are actively doing so,” he added
Some Britons in Goa told British news outlets that they had been subjected to hostility from the local people and found it difficult to find hotels to stay and get medicines. Others reportedly confined in a Kerala hospital described difficult conditions.
Jan Thompson, acting British high commissioner to India, tweeted on Friday: “India has extended the ban on international flights until 14 April. The UK government is in discussions with airlines & Government of India on various flight options. We are urgently working towards a solution”.
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