IT’S two months since lockdown began and about 20,000 Brits are still stranded abroad.
Despite £75million being set aside for repatriation flights, the Foreign Office has been criticised for organising only 146 airlifts to the UK.
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Where commercial routes were not an option, just 31,000 Brits from 27 countries have been repatriated on Foreign and Commonwealth Office flights since early April.
Here are stories of two reptriated Brits and two still stuck overseas . . .
Rescued: RSPB group
A BIRD-conservation team stranded on a South Atlantic isle battled an epic journey home. The group of 12 from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) faced 12 days’ sailing on stormy seas, a five-day stop on remote Ascension Island then an RAF airlift.
They had arrived on Gough Island, in the British Overseas Territory of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, in February to save endangered birds from invasive mice. But when world-wide lockdowns hit in March, they were marooned – their island chain more than 1,750 miles from the nearest other land.
When flying home via South Africa was ruled out, the RAF stepped in and the Falklands Islands was identified as the best pick-up point – but then bad weather hit. So the team sailed their expedition yacht for 12 days to Ascension Island.
RSPB field assistant Kate Lawrence, above, said: “The endless ocean made the world feel so big, as the spread of Covid-19 made it seem so small.”
Rescued: Luke Burrows
PLUCKY Luke travelled to a remote part of Argentina to teach English – only to be isolated by locals who feared he had Covid-19.
A 14-day quarantine for travellers began the day he arrived in the small town of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini. Luke, 34, of Castle Cray, Somerset, said: “I was fine at first, I intended teaching there for a while. But as time went on, I found it difficult being trapped.”
After five weeks, the British Embassy offered him a charter flight home, on May 7, but rain flooded the only road out of town. Luke, right, said: “I lost hope of getting home. But at mid-night, a man in uniform appeared, saying the British Embassy had been in touch and police would drive me to the pick-up the next day.”
Having seen little of Argentina, he at least saw traditional gaucho cowboys from the back of the police 4×4.
Stranded: Tony Pycraft
THERE are worse places to be in lockdown than a tropical beach resort – but after two months in a plush Philippines hotel, Yorskhireman Tony admits you can have too much of a good thing.
The boss of upgradetravelclub.com found himself stuck on Mindoro island after arriving for a diving trip on March 13.
With his home in Cambodia, and no plan to return to the UK, the UK Government is not bound to return him to his resident nation. With no other flights to Cambodia, and strict re-entry rules there, he is stranded.
Describing life on a tourist isle with no tourists, Tony, 52, right, said: “From diving, to bars and restaurants, it all shut down. There are four other guests in this 200-person hotel. But it has cut its room rate hugely and at least I’m safe – with nobody visiting, the island has had no Covid-19.”
Stranded: Nurce Erben
A TRIP to see her grandparents in Istanbul turned to hell for Londoner Nurce as flight cancellations separated her from her boyfriend – and she feels abandoned by our Foreign Office.
Fashion entrepreneur Nurce, 24, said: “I’m ignored because I have dual Turkish and British citizenship. I have a British firm, I’m a British taxpayer, I pay rent on a flat in London, but nobody is helping me get back home.”
As the weeks have dragged on, she has begun feeling desperate, her business is suffering and she has not seen partner…
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