Hackney heroine and family stranded in Gambia during coronavirus pandemic: “We need to come home”
PUBLISHED: 16:14 09 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:14 09 April 2020
Hackney Heroine Pauline Pearce is trapped in Gambia with her family after their flights were cancelled due to Covid-19. She is calling on the government for help to get them back to the UK.
Pauline is with her sick father who is almost out of heart medication and two other members of her family. She and her father suffer from asthma and are worried about money, food and accommodation - unsure when they will be able to return.
“We don’t have a clue when we’re going to get home [or] how we’re going to get home.” she said.
Pauline went to the west African nation for her eldest daughter’s wedding last month but when family members tried to leave on March 16 their flights were cancelled and never rescheduled.
“[My dad and daughter] got a text message saying the flight was cancelled on March 16 but was being rescheduled for March 17. They heard nothing on March 17 so they decided to go to the airport. When they got to the airport it was absolute, total mayhem - no flights going anywhere [and] loads of angry people. There are tons of us out here in Gambia,” said Pauline in a video she posted on Facebook pleading for assistance. She even had to borrow money for phone credit to make the live video.
The former liberal democrats candidate, campaigner and anti-knife crime activist, who famously confronted rioters in 2011, says there could be over 200 people who are also trapped and unable to return home in Gambia right now.
She is worried about the family’s finances as they are unsure how long they will have to stay in Gambia.
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An “overwhelmed” Pauline has said: “It’s all a bit too much. Somebody tell the government, talk to Boris. We’ve sent emails here, there and everywhere but all everyone’s doing is trying to flog us plane tickets when we’ve already bought return tickets. No one’s bothered about us out here. We need to come home.”
Plane tickets would currently cost about £3000 for the four of them to fly back to the UK and Pauline knows there’s no guarantee their flights won’t be cancelled again.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said its staff provided advice to Pauline’s family, including offering an interest-free loan to help with the costs of the flight and will be in contact further if flight options become available.
It says it’s committed to supporting British travellers who wish to return from The Gambia and has already helped some British Nationals return from the country but the FCO is only running special flights where scheduled commercial flights are no longer an option. The FCO says it’s focusing on places where the most British travellers are stranded
A spokesperson from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “We know it’s a difficult time for many British travellers abroad – especially those with challenging circumstances.
Our Consular Teams are doing everything they can, especially for those in difficulty, to keep Brits informed on the latest developments and help them return - on commercial flights where they are still available or special charter flights as well. We’ll continue working around the clock to bring people home.”
A fundraiser for the Pearce family was launched on April 4 to help the them get home.
To donate click here.
For advice on financial assistance abroad click here
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