Pakistani students, expats disappointed with UK’s decision to retain Pakistan on red list

Hassan NaqviReporter

27th Aug, 2021. 04:00 pm
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The Pakistani students and expats residing in the United Kingdom (UK) have expressed their concern over London’s decision to retain Pakistan on the red list despite the lobbying by Pakistan High Commission and Pakistani-origin British MPs.

The UK government had introduced a “traffic light system” for travellers a few months back. The countries are placed in green, amber and red lists.

People travelling from countries placed on the green list have no restrictions. While people returning to the UK from the amber list countries are required to complete 10 days of home isolation if they are fully vaccinated.

For countries placed on the red list, only British citizens are allowed to return to the UK and upon arrival, they have to quarantine at British government-approved hotels for 10 days at the cost of £2,250 per adult.

Pakistan has been on the red list since April.

The list is updated after every three weeks and a country is moved to the green or amber list depending on the coronavirus cases and vaccination progress.

Hira Hassan, a Pakistani expatriate residing in the UK, told Bol News that Pakistan has been on the red list since April.

She added that, on the other hand, India which had a higher number of coronavirus cases than Pakistan was added to the red list four weeks after Pakistan.

Hira said that she had high hopes that this time Pakistan would be removed from the list as India’s position has also changed.

“We strongly believe this is down to politics now and not related to coronavirus cases as the Covid-19 situation in India is not better than Pakistan,” she said.

The Pakistani expat said that the country lacks a strong foreign policy and excellent relationship that India enjoys. She added that New Delhi was able to use its influence for its citizens, adding that UK and India also have mutual trade interests.

“India has a visa agreement with the UK under which a large influx of students are expected to arrive in the UK in September,” she shared.

Tasleem Abbas, who is studying at a UK university and was in Pakistan for his semester break, agreed with Hira. He deplored that he will now have to pay £2,250 for the mandatory quarantine which he shared was too costly for his parents.

On the other hand, Jumana Ahmed, another student, told Bol News that she decided not to visit Pakistan due to the costly quarantine.

“My parents are already working very hard to make ends meet. So, I can not overburden them with the additional cost of a hotel quarantine and decided not to meet my loved ones with a heavy heart,” she told Bol News while crying on the phone.

Pakistani mission slams UK government’s decision

A day after the news regarding the red list emerged, the Pakistani High Commission in London said it was ‘disappointed’ with the decision.

“Disappointed with decision to retain Pakistan on Red List. Entails continuing hardship for thousands of Pakistanis and British Pakistanis,” said the mission in a tweet.

The Pakistani embassy also said that it had shared “all the relevant data” with the UK government. It also said that the move puts a “question mark over equity and consistency of criteria being employed” by the UK government.

MP Afzal Khan disappointed with UK govt

Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistani origin Labour MP Afzal Khan expressed his complete ‘disappointment’ with the UK government’s decision to keep Pakistan on the red list.

“With the crisis in Afghanistan underway, Pakistan can play a huge role in delivering key humanitarian aid. The decision will upset many and cause major disruption,” tweeted Afzal along with a letter he received from UKs Aviation and Maritime Minister Robert Courts.

Courts had told Afzal that he does recognise the impact of a decision but explained that the decision was taken to “protect” the UK against new variants of COVID-19 “at a critical time for the vaccine programme” in the UK.

“Variants of concern are detected through wider surveillance mechanisms such as genomic surveillance, but capability and capacity for this is limited in Pakistan.”

The letter further added that the UK data shows that a relatively high number of travellers were arriving in the UK from Pakistan weekly, of them, there was a relatively high rate of people testing positive for Covid-19.

“To consider removing Pakistan from the red list, ministers would need to be satisfied that the risk of variants of concern being imported into the UK has been significantly reduced,” said the letter.

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