13 May 2020

She was caught in Punjab, India lockdown alongside her husband.

Read what happened to Samina Sharma, one our Senior Housing Liaison Officer working in Harrow.

My husband and I travelled to India for a short break which was planned some time ago; there were no advisory on the travel page for either of the countries when we set of for our three week break.   Once we arrived to Amritsar to stay with family we learnt that the Prime Minister had placed a ban on any flights coming into India without any notice.   We immediately contacted our travel agent with a view to travel back on the next available flights which was five days later; this failed to happen as the PM announced a total lockdown.

Coping – It was extremely difficult not knowing when we would be allowed to travel back to the UK, whilst repatriation flights commenced from Delhi; people in the Punjab 9 hours away by road were advised that they would not be allowed to board flights in Delhi if not living in catchment area.   Further to this no flights had started at Amritsar airport. If foreigners were found to be travelling without a valid reason i.e. medical then they would be accountable for their own actions.  

I quickly discovered there was a need of a group to voice  people’s concerns stranded in the Punjab;  I started a group Brits Stranded in the Punjab whilst another member opened a WhatsApp group so that we could connect; share information and challenge authorities.

I continued to liaise with local MPs in the UK and raise concerns about no flights from Amritsar; I contacted Jan Thompson – Acting British High Commissioner in Delhi; we formalised complaints and had MPs in the UK bring these matters to the attention of the UK government.  

Sadly despite us arriving safely back to the UK the Indian police continue to visit the family home in India because we were foreigners and in their eyes posed a high risk of bringing Covid19.

I would encourage members stranded around the world to formalise there concerns in formal complaints; where possible have a Whatsapp group/Facebook so that everyone can come together and voice their concerns.  I found the groups were very helpful in supporting each another through this extremely difficult process; I will remain involved with the group I created until all the Brits stranded in the Punjab are back.  Different states have different policies and practices and therefore I would encourage checking on the FCO website.    

I continue to support hundreds of Brits stranded in the Punjab, I would urge people stranded to remain positive, help will come although it does not feel like it.

If you have a loved one stranded abroad, my advice is to remain positive; continue to reassure them and raise concerns formally, MPs, FCO, and British High Commission. 

For anyone stranded in the Punjab, India please feel free to register on Facebook: Brits Stranded in the Punjab. It’s also useful to subscribe to email alerts at  https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india/email-signup

 

If you're a CNWL staff member you can contact our BAME Staff Network for support and advice by emailing cnw-tr.bame.cnwl@nhs.net