Canadians stranded in U.K. feel abandoned by federal government

Canadians stranded in the United Kingdom are facing uncertainty around how or when they will be able to get home and in some cases where they will stay while waiting out the travel ban.

Brooke Johnson, 42, is from Ontario’s Niagara Region but had travelled to London for work. Her contract ended on Dec. 18, and she had been preparing to leave when Canada suspended all commercial and private passenger flights from Britain.

That initial 72-hour suspension on flights from the U.K. has now been extended for two weeks until Jan. 6, as Canada tries to prevent a new variant of the novel coronavirus detected there from spreading here.

There are concerns that the new variant is significantly more contagious than other strains, though it may not be any more deadly.

Johnson said she is stressed about “this open-ended thing of not knowing when this is going to end or where I am going to stay.”

The problem, Johnson said, is that her accommodation runs out soon, and parts of London and areas in the southeast of England are under stricter Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s a little scary because of course the hotels and Airbnb have been closed for bookings, so I have somewhere to stay until Dec. 28, but after that it’s a big question mark,” she said.

Reports of thousands left stranded in the U.K.

There are reports of many people left stranded in the U.K. as dozens of countries around the world imposed travel restrictions on fights from the country.

Global Affairs Canada said there are currently 11,038 Canadians registered as being in the country, but this is a voluntary registration and not all may wish to leave.

Johnson said she has a few days to find a place to stay.

“In normal times, I would check into a hotel or stay with friends, but who’s gonna take me in now in the middle of the pandemic when things are raging in London? I’ll be putting myself and others at risk,” she said.

“It is what it is right now, but it’s really hard and stressful.”

Saeed Durhan of Mississauga, Ont., had travelled to London to vacation and visit friends and family. Now he and his 15-year-old son are unable to book a flight home.(Submitted by Saeed Durhan)

Saeed Durhan, 51, was lucky enough to be able to extend his hotel stay, but it’s costly.

“We’ve been scrambling to find a flight home since Sunday,” he said.

“We haven’t found anything.”

Durhan travelled from Mississauga, Ont., for vacation and to visit family, but now he can’t book a flight to get him and his 15-year-old son home.

He has even tried to book a flight back to Canada through Washington D.C., but was told United Airlines will only take U.S. citizens.

Durhan said there has been no help, guidance or direction from the Canadian government or consulate office.

“I’m not looking for a free ride here. What I would like the Canadian government to do is exactly what the US government did,” he said.

“They have United Airlines taking only U.S. citizens. Why can’t Canada do the same thing with Air Canada? There are Air Canada planes sitting at Heathrow Airport. Why can’t they do the exact same thing and say only Canadian residents can board the plane and go back home?”

Global Affairs Canada says there are no plans to offer repatriation or assisted departure flights.

In a statement to CBC News, it said it is aware of Canadians abroad seeking to return to Canada.

The federal government has advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada since March 13, 2020.

But Global Affairs Canada says it continues to monitor the situation closely.

“The Canadian consulate basically told me I’m on my own,” Durhan said. “The Canadian government is leaving its own citizens completely stranded.”

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