Home Latest News British Lawmakers Question U.K.’s Retention of Pakistan on Travel Red List

British Lawmakers Question U.K.’s Retention of Pakistan on Travel Red List

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Daniel Leal-Olivas—AFP

Members of Parliament Yasmin Qureshi and Naz Shah note India has been moved to ‘amber’ list despite reporting a higher infection rate than Pakistan

British lawmakers Yasmin Qureshi and Naz Shah on Thursday criticized the U.K. government’s decision to retain Pakistan on its travel red list, describing it as “blatant discrimination” against Islamabad.

“Despite Pakistan not having any variants of concern, it remains on the red list,” said Qureshi in a posting on Twitter. “I have questioned the government directly, spoken in Parliament, asked parliamentary questions, and coordinated letters to no avail,” she lamented, emphasizing that India—where the highly-infectious Delta variant that is now sweeping through the globe was originally identified—has been placed on the far-less stringent amber list.

Travelers from countries on the red list are required to self-finance quarantine in a government-designated hotel upon their arrival to the U.K. They must also submit to two PCR tests. By contrast, travelers from amber list countries can quarantine at home or any other location of their choice, potentially saving them thousands in hotel costs.

Qureshi, a British-Pakistani M.P. for Bolton South East who also serves as chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, said the government’s policy reeked of politicization. “The government is seeking to penalize Pakistan in favor of potential economic benefit,” she said, referring to reports that the U.K. was facilitating India for the sake of a bilateral trade deal. “This is clear and blatant discrimination towards Pakistan,” she added.

Shah, a British-Pakistani M.P. for Bradford West, also questioned the government’s decision to retain Pakistan on the red list while moving India to the amber list. “It is not the first time that this government has shown such callous behavior when dealing with the quarantine traffic light system,” she said.

The lawmaker highlighted the infection rates in the two countries to emphasize the discrimination on display. “India’s seven-day infection rate is 20 per 100,000 people … Pakistan’s just 14 per 100,000 people—well below the vast majority of amber list destinations,” she said. “The last time this government favored political choices rather than science and risked our nation’s COVID efforts, it failed to place India on the red list,” she said, referring to the British government delaying restrictions on travelers from India while it was in the midst of a devastating wave of the pandemic driven by the Delta variant. “That led to the Delta variant becoming the most prominent COVID variant in the U.K.,” she added.

“Whilst families have been forced away from loved ones for months, it is unacceptable for decisions to be made in such ways,” she said and vowed to raise the issue further. Qureshi, too, lamented that she had constituents who were unable to return to university, see family or even attend funerals. She said the situation was worsened by the government’s decision to raise the price of the mandatory quarantine.

“To add insult to injury, the hotel quarantine cost is set to increase by between £450-£800, to a total of £2,285,” she said. “Why has the price been increased? This makes it even harder and penalizes those who need to get to Pakistan urgently,” she added.

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