In a new report, the cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee has slammed the Foreign Office’s repatriation initiative to bring UK citizens home at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling it slow and poorly co-ordinated.

Years of budget cuts and lack of leadership has left the UK unable to match its European neighbours, such as Denmark, Germany or Ireland, and repatriate its citizens trapped abroad during a deadly pandemic.

The Tory Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee said that many people had received advice which was “confusing, inconsistent and lacking in compassion”.  Many Motherwell & Wishaw residents will recognise this – if not from their own experience, then from that of their friends or family.  This was reflected in the report’s findings that over 85% of respondents were either ‘very unhappy’ or ‘somewhat unhappy’ with the UK Government’s response. 

Commenting, Motherwell & Wishaw MP Marion Fellows said:

“As soon the scale of the impact of the virus became clear, SNP MPs lobbied the UK Government to follow our neighbours – like Germany and the Netherlands – and actively organise flights to repatriate UK citizens trapped abroad.

“The lack of action in response shows the UK Government in a position it seems to be repeatedly found in these days: asleep at the wheel.  There was an absence of leadership and direction from the very top of this rudderless Tory Government which impacted my constituents when they most needed help.

“I tried to ensure the safe and quick return of several constituents from abroad in the initial weeks of the lockdown by writing to the Foreign Office. In most cases, I received a standard response. In one case, a constituent was helped home by a French Ambassador. This is utterly embarrassing.

“Years of cuts have hollowed out the Foreign Office and left it unable to protect its citizens in their times of need.  The UK Government needs to face up to this reality and commit now to reversing the cuts they have made to this country’s services.

“Despite the herculean efforts of individual Foreign Office staff around the world, it is painfully clear to anyone watching that years of sustained funding cuts have left the UK Government unable to fulfil its basic obligations to its citizens. The pandemic has shown this to be as true abroad as it is at home.”


This Week (2018): #2

Monday 22nd January

It was back to work for Marion on Monday, as she continues to work hard for the people of the Motherwell & Wishaw constituency.

Tuesday 23rd January

On Tuesday, Marion met with Margaret Ann Jones from Motherwell & Wishaw Women’s Aid to hear more about the valuable work the organisation does in supporting vulnerable women and their children.

It was also a day for receiving answers from the UK Government, as Marion had a variety of questions answered on Carillion in Scotland, ESA tribunals, ESA appeals, and the issue of affordability for repatriating a family member who passes on abroad.

Wednesday 24th January

As well as joining the Deputy First Minister on a visit to Dalziel High, Marion was busy working from her constituency office in Motherwell.

Additionally, more answers to questions raised by the Motherwell & Wishaw MP were received from the UK Government, with Marion raising the issue of adequate measures being in place for when ex-servicemen and women claim to have been the victims of abuse during their time in the armed forces.

Thursday 25th January

Thursday saw Marion speaking out against the Tory austerity which continues to plunge children into poverty (full story here), saying:

The Tory UK Government’s austerity obsession is holding Scotland back from eliminating child poverty. Our children are paying the price while the Tories’ friends, donors and the wealthy get richer.

The SNP Scottish Government has been doing what it can with the powers it has including establishing a £50million child poverty fund and expanding free childcare and early learning so that parents are able to work to support their family.

The Scottish Government is also mitigating against welfare cuts including the Bedroom Tax, maintaining Council Tax Benefit, and increasing the child allowance within the Council Tax reduction scheme helping 140,000 children across Scotland.

The SNP’s efforts have ensured Scotland is miles ahead of the UK on tackling child poverty. But we aim to do more.

It is clear with greater powers at their disposal, the UK Government must act by reversing austerity so that children can be lifted out of poverty rather than being pushed into it.

Marion also continued to hold the UK Government account, quizzing David Mundell on the Scotland Office’s relationship with Carillion, sourcing information on how ex-servicemen and women can officially return their medals should they wish to do so, and continuing to raise the many flaws with Work Capability Assessments.

Friday 26th January