Sunday Apr 18, 2021
LONDON: The UK Government’s decision to put Pakistan on its 'red list' of countries — a move that disrupted the travel plans of thousands of British Pakistani families — has been legally challenged.
The legal claim, seeking judicial review of the harsh decision, has been launched on behalf of a stranded British-Pakistani family in Pakistan. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matthew Hancock MP has been asked to review and reverse the red list categorisation or face a London High Court challenge.
Barrister Rashid Ahmed has launched the claim on behalf of British Pakistanis Mohammed Fiaz, 51, his wife Sabeen Fiaz, and their two minor children Adawiyah Fiaz and Mujtaba Fiaz, who are currently stranded in Pakistan and unable to return to their home in the UK due to rise in fares, difficulty in securing bookings, and expensive quarantine costs.
In the legal letter, a copy of which is available with Geo News, Barrister Rashid Ahmed wrote that on February 2, 202, Sabeen Fiaz travelled to Pakistan, along with her two minor children, to see her father who had suffered a stroke. At that time, her husband and third child Bilal Fiaz remained in the UK. In early March, their flights were cancelled by the airline due to difficulties. Thereafter, Mohammad Fiaz travelled to Pakistan in late March to assist his family’s return to the UK.
Flights were already "extremely expensive" and sparsely available, the letter said, adding that Mohammad Fiaz had tried to book an indirect flight from Pakistan to England via Afghanistan, Turkey, and France, but was unable to board the flight, as he had no visa for Afghanistan, despite only needing to transit.
He received no refund and his situation has now been made even worse due to Pakistan being placed onto the red list of countries as flights have become even more expensive and even more sparsely available.
There are no direct flights available anymore, with only indirect flights available with journey times of between 20 to 40 hours.
Barrister Rashid Ahmed has told the Health Secretary that the Fiaz family cannot afford to pay the charges associated with the mandatory hotel quarantine on arrival to England, which costs around £1,750 per person for ten days — and as such the family are stuck in Pakistan for an unknown period.
The legal claim says that the UK Government has expressly said on numerous occasions that it is being led by Scientific Data but no such data has been published to justify a ban on travel from Pakistan and no facts have been provided on Pakistan.
The legal letter reminds the Health Secretary that the World Health Organisation has reported on Pakistan’s relative success and noted that it has “fared well” in its fight against COVID-19 with it having far fewer cases per 100,000 as compared to neighbouring and many western countries.
The claim added: "Other countries around the world, such as New Zealand, have not added Pakistan to their red list, whereas they have placed a ban on all arrivals from countries such as India as of April 11, 2021. It has recently been reported that a new variant of COVID-19 (B.1.617) from India has been detected in the UK with over 70 reported cases so far. However, at the time of writing this letter, India is not on the red list.”
The legal claim has been launched on the grounds that the decision to ban all travel from Pakistan was made without any legal authority; the addition of Pakistan as a red-list country within Schedule B1 of the International Travel Regulations is unlawful, irrational and disproportionate; the mandatory requirement for all persons from Pakistan travelling to the UK to quarantine in a government-designated facility is a breach of Articles 5,8, and 14 ECHR and is discriminatory; and the imposition of charges for being on the wrong side of the regulations is in violation of the family's rights under the Immigration Act 1971.
Barrister Rashid Ahmed said that the addition of Pakistan to the red list cannot, in any way, "be said to achieve any of the desired results set out in the government policy and cannot be said to be necessary."
The legal claim has demanded of the UK government to remove Pakistan from the red list and waive all charges for the mandatory hotel quarantine for those who cannot afford it; release any documents showing the criteria for a country to go onto the red list, and reveal the Scientific data/evidence used to determine that Pakistan should be added to the red list.
The Health Secretary has been told that he will be taken to the court in case of failure to comply.