8th April 2020   •   article
Thousands of Britons are stranded in Pakistan with no idea how to get back: the Safdars included

Image: Shazanna Safdar
Thousands of Britons are still stranded in Pakistan, weeks after the government promised to bring everyone home.

Shazanna's parents are among them. She got in touch with Barfi Culture to highlight the chaos many British Pakistanis are going through.

"My dad is a kidney transplant patient so he really shouldn’t be out at all near anybody," she told us. "He has no immune system."

She said PIA are running some flights back to Britain but the system is chaotic. She booked her parents flights back but when they got to the office to pay (they weren't allowed to pay by credit card over the phone) they were told their seats had already been sold.

Mohammed and Sara Safdar were stranded in a remote village in Pakistan. They flew out to Pakistan in February for a holiday and to visit family. They were due to fly back to London on 28th March, but their flight by Emirates was cancelled.

Moreover, PIA has allegedly cancelled several flights and offered no refunds. On top of that the price of tickets back to Britain is so exorbitant that some can't afford them.

It got to a point where British MP Naz Shah had to push the Pakistani government to cap fares.

"My parents feel very let down by the FCO, who have just left it to PIA to organise general commercial flights," she told Barfi Culture.

Around 4,000 Britons have been sent back so far on special flights arranged by PIA and UK government. But an estimated 20,000 British Pakistanis still remain there, with an uncertain future.

Some have family support but many face financial distress caused by cancellation of flights. Instead of refunds, passengers were being offered flight credits for unspecified dates.

Shazanna says her parents are now on a flight back but she is worried because there was no 'social distancing' at the airport - "everyone was standing very close together."

She says the British Foreign Office are saying they are helping everybody but they got none. It was purely through sheer luck they got the flight as her mother was constantly checking PIA website! "There was no help from the FCO or the Embassy."

"They’re fortunate they could afford the fare," she says. "One passenger had 4 tickets when his flight got cancelled and he didn’t get a refund."

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Sadia Humayun is a freelance journalist and writer
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