Two Stoke-on-Trent city councillors are stranded in Pakistan amid the coronavirus crisis.
The wife of Labour group leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez is also stuck in the South Asia nation.
Labour councillor Amjid Wazir, who represents Hanley Park and Shelton, and Councillor Majid Khan have been stranded, independently, in Mirpur for more than a month.
Councillor Wazir arrived on March 4 for three weeks and was due to leave on March 27, but his flights were cancelled just days before.
“They suspended all flights on March 23,” he said. “I can’t get back now, they’re asking a lot of money to get back. They sent three or four flights last weekend but they were asking for £1,400. Now they’re asking £800.
“I already paid £500 for a return ticket when I came. The airline, PIA are saying to claim it back when I get back, from the original ticket.
“I know a lot of other people are stuck here too from the UK. I’m worried for my family and my community in Stoke-on-Trent. I’m praying for them all the time, I pray you are safe and get through this situation.
“We only have about seven or eight cases in Mirpur and they won’t let anybody in our anybody out. I don’t know when I’ll be getting back.”
Councillor Khan arrived in Pakistan on February 23, but has managed to arrange a flight home.
He said: “Councillor Wazir is not far from me but we didn’t come together. I’m speaking to him regularly.
“The situation for me luckily, I’ve arranged flights for me, my wife and son on Saturday (April 11). But people are queuing up for seats, they’re going like hotcakes.
“I’m on one of the busiest streets but it’s like a ghost town, there’s nobody on the road. I arrived here on February 23 but it had gotten a lot worse by the middle of March.
“People are concerned as they’re running low on medication, like myself. But luckily I’ve arranged my fights. Just keeping my fingers crossed until I board the aeroplane. All we can do is abide by the Government guidelines and hope for the best.”
Councillor Pervez said: “My wife went to Pakistan to visit her family and was due back on March 28. However, Pakistan was locked down a couple of days before that and all flights were grounded.
“There is now some hope in that some flights are being re-scheduled.
“Pakistan has a fragile health economy and a complete lockdown is their best hope of controlling this pandemic. So it’s understandable why they have taken the action they have.
“However, this does mean major disruption and worry for people stranded abroad.
“And it’s an extremely difficult time for citizens of Pakistan because people can’t work and are unable to earn a living to even feed their families. Access to health services is also limited.”
Labour MP Emily Thornberry wrote to the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week to demand more was done to bring ‘tens of thousands’ of stranded Brits home from Pakistan. The letter was signed by 75 other MPs.
The Foreign Consulate Office say charter flights were being prioritised for citizens in countries where borders were closed and as PIA was still able to fly from the country, efforts were being directed towards the commercial option.
The office added that around 1,000 Britons had returned to the UK last week on four PIA flights with another eight flights scheduled this week.