From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, UK nationals stranded abroad have been reaching out to the Portsmouth South MP for assistance. Stephen Morgan MP has so far taken action on behalf of 35 constituents stuck in 11 countries, with 12 still remaining overseas.
In each individual case, Mr Morgan has been lobbying Government hard, submitting detailed requests for action to the Foreign Office and relaying concerns to the Shadow Foreign Secretary, who is raising cases at regular meetings with Ministers.
Further action by the city MP has included writing an open letter to the Foreign Secretary urging more comprehensive support packages and raising additional measures that government could take by submitting parliamentary questions.
The city MP received a recent update on many of the concerns he raised following a meeting between the Shadow Foreign Office team and Nigel Adams MP, Minister of State for the Foreign Office. However, concerns over the Government’s response to this crisis remain.
Mr Morgan said:
“There must be little scarier and more stressful than being stranded hundreds of miles from home and separated from family during a pandemic. As well as raising individual cases, I have been feeding key themes back to the Shadow Foreign Office team who have been raising concerns at the highest level.
At a recent meeting, the Government Minister responsible acknowledged that there is a need for more accessible information coming from embassies, increased efforts put into the repatriation of vulnerable people, and more action taken over the financial losses incurred by flight cancellations.
While these acknowledgements are encouraging, we must see this translate into practical action. There are 12 Portsmouth people who have got in touch with me, and many more who haven’t, who are still stuck overseas. Every day they are there is more anxiety and stress for them and their families.
I will continue to constructively engage with government by highlighting areas for improvement while applying scrutiny to their decisions, making sure that the interests of Portsmouth people are represented.”
Some of the cases that the Portsmouth South representative has been assisting with have included elderly people stuck in Australia with limited access to medication, an individual separated from his partner in Ghana, a performer stranded aboard a cruise liner, and a man confined to his accommodation in Goa due to a pack of wild dogs left to roam the streets.
Mr Morgan also raised the issue of spiralling, and reportedly exploitative, airline flight costs with the Foreign Office. This followed one constituent contacting him to outline they had been quoted $3000 for a one way journey.
On flight costs, Stephen Morgan MP said:
“We cannot stand for any kind of cashing in on people’s desperation and no one should get into financial difficulty through no fault of their own. I therefore welcome government’s commitments to subsidise flights, work with airlines to stop spiralling flight costs and increase repatriation loan repayment timetables.
While I am glad government has listened to the concerns I raised earlier this month, I will continue to work closely with stranded constituents to ensure that they see these changes on the ground.”
Mr Morgan has also been acting in his capacity as Shadow Armed Forces minister, outlining how best the government can utilise the expert skill set of military personnel. He added:
“We have the most elite armed forces in the world. Dealing with crisis is their bread and butter and they are doing outstanding working in supporting services amid Covid-19.
- The RAF has already been mobilised for some flights, but it was revealed at the latest meeting there is no planned mass deployment at this time.
I will continue to apply scrutiny to government decision-making on the use of our armed forces to ensure that if necessary, Ministers are encouraged to make resources available.”
The city MP has been privy to additional commitments made by government including dual nationals who hold British passports not being treated any differently, an initial 10 flights being chartered to return British citizens from Pakistan, and better communication channels being established between the Foreign Office and constituency MPs. Stephen Morgan MP continues to help a number of constituents who are still stranded abroad.