Nearly 300 Brits stuck in New Zealand call on MPs to organise flight home
Nearly 300 British nationals in New Zealand are putting pressure on MPs to organise a repatriation flight before the country goes into lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
Daisy Ifama Samuel is among a list of 297 British nationals, which she says includes NHS doctors and people unable to access medicine, stranded after their flights back to the UK were cancelled.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister for New Zealand, ordered a month-long nationwide lockdown from Wednesday night local time.
Residents are being told to stay home, while all non-essential activity and travel is to cease.
Ms Samuel, who has been in New Zealand for 14 days, said British nationals were being forced to camp outside after being kicked out of hostels in the country.
“We’ve been trying to leave for a week, and we’ve gone to the British High Commission in Wellington to try and get some answers,” she told the PA news agency.
“They locked us out, wouldn’t let us in, had a poster on the door that just said a number.
“Every attempt we’ve tried to get hold of the Foreign Office or embassy, there’s been nothing.
“We haven’t managed to have a phone call with anyone because the phones just don’t ring through to a person.”
The freelance filmmaker said as well as being unable to get hold of anyone in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), she has also been unable to speak to staff at Emirates, who she was due to fly with.
The 25-year-old said: “We’ve been trying to ring Emirates and stay on hold for four hours, nothing would happen.
“It was charging £4,000 to change your dates, and this is when flights already started dropping, and Emirates was the only one left.”
She added: “Last night, (Emirates) said we’ll be flying into Gatwick on March 29, but we woke up this morning and that had all completely changed.”
Ms Samuel, from London, said the group of 297 British nationals came together after the Government secured a flight home for residents stranded in Peru.
The FCO said on Saturday a repatriation flight had been organised for British and Irish citizens in the South American country.
Ms Samuel said: “We’ve just tried to copy what happened in Peru, and get as many British people that are stuck here together and then email out all MPs.
“Now MPs have a list of around 300 people, there’s definitely more, and we’re just trying to share it to see if they will do a flight. But we’re the furthest point from the UK.
“There’s people being chucked out of hostels, NHS doctors trying to get back, people with kids, people with multiple sclerosis that can’t get their medication.
“There’s people literally camping because the hostels are shutting down. And there’s a storm here.”
Ms Samuel, who travelled to New Zealand to visit a friend, criticised the Government for not acting “fast enough” in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 25-year-old said: “Some people have like said, ‘why did you even go there?’.
“I just want to say, our Government didn’t act fast enough and let us know enough information.
“Airlines were still running, there weren’t the kind of health warnings that there are now, the UK was not in the lockdown it is now – hindsight is obviously an amazing thing.
“And not everyone is in the same situation, some people have been here for months.”
She pleaded with the FCO to be more organised, adding: “Please just create a form for everyone to fill out and please, please, please send a flight.
“Pay attention to the people who are urgent and really need to get back.”
An Emirates spokeswoman said: “As per the latest UAE government directive, Emirates will temporarily suspend all passenger flights from 25 March 2020.
“These measures are in place for the protection of communities against the spread of Covid-19, and we are in full support.
“We look forward to resuming passenger services as soon as feasible.”