ISLAMABAD– Several British parliamentarians have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urgently respond with full data and evidence to why Pakistan and Bangladesh have been added to the “Red List” countries starting from 9th of April 2021.
Chair of All Parties Parliamentary Group on Pakistan (APPG), Yasmin Qureshi MP sent a letter to PM Johnson signed by parliamentarians from Labour and Conservatives questioning the UK government’s decision of putting a travel ban that came into force at a very short notice.
Also, British Pakistani lawyer Barrister Rashid Ahmed announced of initiating a proper legal challenge to the UK government for singling out Pakistan.The letter said these countries on the red list will have a huge impact on many UK residents.
It said: “The UK has over 1.1m British Pakistanis and a large number of British Bangladeshis in the UK. Whilst we support measures where there is a clear need to act to protect the UK in relation to COVID-19, we have major concerns about the way this plan has been implemented without providing clear evidence for that decision.”
The letter of MPs mentioned that many UK citizens travelled to those countries in accordance with the government’s COVID-19 guidelines as vast majority travelled to visit family, including elderly relatives, whom they may not have seen for over a year.
“They will have already paid for return flights but are now in a position where they will have to pay for new flights in order to return before the ban is put in place. Flight costs are currently around £2,000 per single ticket. Most of the people who have travelled will have paid for return flights priced at around £500 which are now useless,” it said.
The MPs said that the vast majority of UK residents currently in those countries will have had to save up for some time to fly to Pakistan and Bangladesh. They asked to either arrange charter flights or extend the cut-off date for return of UK residents.
The MPs demanded in the letter: “We feel that the Government should do everything it can to help our constituents left stranded by this decision. They are being put into a position of either being stuck abroad or getting into considerable debt to pay to get home.
The MPs questioned why the UK government had not provided any data to support the travel ban.
The letter said: “We have major concerns about the lack of available data and evidential and scientific reasoning which have been used to put these countries on the red list. Based on available data, many other countries not on the red list have more positive COVID tests per 100,000 people than Pakistan.”
They stressed that current rate of infection in Pakistan was also reportedly lower than the UK and also asked for a roadmap that how countries were added and removed from the red list.
The MPs who signed the letter include Rushanara Ali MP, Chair of the APPG on Bangladesh; Rehman Chishti MP; former Chair of the APPG on Pakistan; Afzal Khan MP – Chair of the APPG on Britain-Pakistan Trade and Tourism; Debbie Abrahams MP, Tahir Ali MP, Paula Barker MP, Apsana Begum MP, Hilary Benn MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Dawn Butler MP, Liam Byrne MP, Ruth Cadbury MP, Stella Creasy MP, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP, Clive Efford MP, Margaret Ferrier MP, Mary Kelly Foy MP, Lilian Greenwood MP, Andrew Gwynne MP, Emma Hardy MP, Rachel Hopkins MP, Rupa Huq MP, Imran Hussain MP, Kim Johnson MP, Khalid Mahmood MP, Shabana Mahmood MP, Seema Malhotra MP, John McDonnell MP, Navendu Mishra MP, Matthew Offord MP, Kate Osborne MP, Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Naz Shah MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Henry Smith MP, Jeff Smith MP, Royston Smith MP, Stephen Timms MP, Kelly Tolhurst MP, Claudia Webbe MP, Mick Whitley MP, Mohammad Yasin MP and Valerie Vaz MP.