Minister slams UK for putting Pakistan on red list of travel ban states

Published April 19, 2021
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari speaks during an interview. — Screengrab courtesy SSII YouTube video/File
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari speaks during an interview. — Screengrab courtesy SSII YouTube video/File

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari on Sunday described including Pakistan in the red list of travel ban countries and the compulsory quarantining in the UK as an inhumane move by the British government.

“This is absolutely shameful. These people have paid 1,750 pounds per person to undergo 10 days of compulsory quarantine in the UK and are being treated in this inhumane manner simply because they happen to be of Pakistani origin,” the minister tweeted.

Dr Mazari said this was a discriminatory approach towards Pakistani and British nationals of Pakistani origin. “It is yet another reflection of putting Pakistan in the list of red zone countries but leaving out states like India, which has one of the fastest spirals of Covid cases plus a new lethal variant also.”

Mazari calls it a discriminatory approach

With these messages, she also uploaded a video made by Pakistanis quarantined in the UK showing the predicament of about 18 to 19 families. They complained that they were being denied food and their children having to eat cold food with cases of food poisoning. They also complained of having to fast without Sehri.

“We want food that is edible by elders and children alike,” said a Pakistani quarantined in the UK, requesting that their basic human rights should be met.

On April 2, British High Commission Christian Turner said his government was keeping its border measures under close review because of Covid-19. “It is being announced that Pakistan has been added to the UK’s red list of travel ban countries,” he said in a video message posted on his twitter account.

He explained that red listing meant that only UK/Irish nationals and those with residency rights will be “allowed to travel from Pakistan to the United Kingdom from 0400 (UK time) on Friday, April 9. Anyone arriving into England after that will have to book a managed quarantine hotel (room) in advance”.

While direct flights would continue to operate between the two countries, Dr Turner said he realised that this news would be unwelcomed by so many of the British-Pakistani community.

In response to questions about some of the reasons Pakistan was being included in the red list of countries regarding Covid-19 pandemic, how satisfied was the British government with the SOPs being followed at airports in Pakistan and if the British government could elaborate on the effectiveness of home testing kits provided to its citizens, the UK government said it was because of the large shared community that the UK was looking to limit the spread of Covid-19 among friends and families and taking further action.

The UK government said the decision by ministers to add and remove countries from the red list was based on latest scientific data and public health advice from a range of world-leading experts.

The risk assessments covered a range of factors, including assessment of surveillance/sequencing capability, available surveillance/genome sequencing data, evidence of in-country community transmission of Covid-19 variants, evidence of exportation of new variants to the UK or other countries, and travel connectivity with the UK.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2021

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