Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has said the British government “learn lessons from Israel” on the repatriation of its nationals from overseas.
The comments raised eyebrows this week, given Thornberry’s record of castigating Israel during the last parliament, but she acknowledged Israel’s success working with foreign governments and airlines in bringing thousands of Israelis home.
The Labour front-bencher suggested Britain take a leaf out of Israel’s book in a parliamentary question tabled on 19 March, which was answered by Middle East Minister James Cleverly just before Parliament closed late last week.
Thornberry asked “what discussions he has had with his counterpart in Israel on the plans that that country has in place to repatriate Israeli nationals from overseas, and whether the UK can learn lessons from that approach”.
On Thursday and Friday 517 Israelis were evacuated from India aboard two Air India flights despite a nationwide lock-down earlier in the week that included all forms of transport, leaving some Indians to walk 200 miles to get home.
Brits stranded in countries such as Peru, Indonesia and New Zealand have taken to social media to complain about a perceived lack of government effort to repatriate them, citing other countries arranging flights to bring their own nationals back.
As of Monday morning the Israeli Foreign Ministry said were still more than 2,000 Israelis stuck abroad but that it had arranged for El Al flights to New Zealand and Australia to pick up hundreds, with other flights from Thailand also laid on.
Earlier this month it arranged for four El Al flights to Peru, which has also closed its borders, to pick up 1,100 Israelis stranded in the South American country when the lock-down orders were given.
Cleverly said the UK was “working closely with local authorities, commercial airlines and other diplomatic missions” to get Brits home, adding: “Our consular team is working around the clock.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said: “From the beginning of the crisis we proved that we will make every effort to repatriate every Israeli who is interested in coming home. This is the central mission of our diplomats across the world.”