British MPs question PM Johnson over singling out Pakistan in travel ban

Ministers say many other countries not on 'red list' have more positive Covid tests per 100,000 people than Pakistan

News Desk April 08, 2021

Dozens of British Members of Parliament (MPs) have asked UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson the reason behind adding Pakistan and Bangladesh to the "red list".

The restrictions were announced last week by the British government, saying that the measures were taken after a surge of coronavirus cases in Pakistan.

However, many questioned the logic behind the move as many countries with higher infections rates were not included in the list.

Federal Minister Asad Umar, who is also heading the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), on Saturday also expressed his reservations.

He tweeted that the move to add Pakistan to the red list raised a legitimate question whether the choice of countries was based on science or foreign policy.

“We have major concerns about the lack of available data and evidential and scientific reasoning which have been used to put these countries [Pakistan and Bangladesh] on the red list," MP Yamin Qureshi said in the letter to PM Johnson.

It said that based on available data, many other countries not on the red list have more positive Covid tests per 100,000 people than Pakistan.

"The current rate of infection in Pakistan is also reportedly lower than the UK. We would be grateful if the full data and evidence can be provided to show why these specific countries have been added to the red list and provide an urgent clarification of the decision-making process."

Read more: UK bans entry of travellers from Pakistan, three other countries over pandemic fears

She said that they would also like to know if the UK government has a roadmap of how countries are added and removed from the red list to see the consistency of how the restrictions are applied.

Criticising the move, Qureshi said that the placing of these countries on the red list will have a huge impact on many UK residents as the country had over 1.1 million British Pakistanis and a large number of British Bangladeshis.

"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," she added.

“Many UK citizens have travelled to those countries in accordance with the government’s Covid-19 guidelines. The vast majority will have 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.”

The MPs asked the British premier to clarify when the next review date will be for removing countries from the list so that the constituents can make realistic travel plans.

The letter was signed by 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.

Earlier, MP Naz Shah had also questioned the ban. The British MP asked whether the decision was led by any scientific data. “According to recently available data for the last seven days, France, Germany and India have a substantially higher number of infection per 100,000,” MP Shah noted.

The figures quoted by Shah are as follows: Pakistan: 13, UK: 54, Bangladesh: 15, Germany: 137, Kenya: 17, India: 24 and France: 403, "It must also be noted that as of today, the South African variant isn't a concern in Pakistan whereas this isn't the case for example in France and other countries. This begs the question why hasn't the government extended the red list to France, Germany, and India?” she asked.

“The government doesn't have a coherent strategy in dealing with the red list,” the MP added.

“The government isn’t serious about protecting the British public as its applying decisions led by politics, not data.”

Read more: UK bans entry of travellers from Pakistan, three other countries over pandemic fear

Shah further said that contrary to what the UK government was saying, it is clearly not making decisions led by science or data.

"Further, it was knowingly and consciously discriminating against Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora community," the British parliamentarian added.

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