Britons in Cambodia secure flight home amid coronavirus cancellations and uncertainty

By Frank Pachas
March 27 2020, 21.30

A Croydon English teacher and more than a hundred Britons are flying back from Cambodia today without help from the British government. 

Ayse Tary, 28, from South Norwood, had her flight back to Britain arranged by the NGO she works for in Phnom Penh, but it was cancelled on Wednesday. 

The NGO told her to contact her embassy and arrange her own flight, a situation which is hard as airlines and airports continue to shut down with very short notice. 

She said: “The last seventy two hours have been wild. Obviously, getting a flight was proving impossible due to this global corona clusterf*ck. 

“Here the situation is really uncertain. I had a huge panic attack two days ago.”

Poor healthcare, rapidly closing borders, flight cancellations and increasing hostility towards westerners have become a huge concern for the Britons stranded in Cambodia. 

Ayse was due to return to the UK in August but because of the coronavirus pandemic she wants to return home immediately. 

The flight she will board today was arranged by fellow traveller, Jerry Lewis, a British man in the Cambodian capital with his family.

Jerry secured a Malaysian repatriation flight on his own without any support or advice from the British embassy in Cambodia. 

He also used a Facebook group Stuck in Cambodia UK, created on Wednesday by stranded Britons in the Southeast Asian nation, to update on the flight negotiations constantly. 

He told the group: “I’m not a travel agent. I’m a teacher on sabbatical travelling with my wife and three children doing my best to get my family home. I’m forking out $7,500 USD (£6,299) for my family to go on this flight on top of £6,000 I have already wasted on cancelled flights.”  

The group has more than four hundred members, some of whom are Britons in Cambodia struggling to pay $1,500 (£1,254) for the flight ticket.

Many of them spent thousands already on cancelled flights without having a refund.

Some members went to the embassy more than once in a week and ended up frustrated with the lack of support.  

They were given a piece of paper outlining exorbitant flights, some of which were no longer available. 

Alfie Mccaig, 20, from Surrey, said: “I gave up in the end trying to get in touch as I heard from numerous people how useless and unhelpful the embassy had been.”

Nick Smith, 34, from Scotland, said: “British government support has been zero. Nothing less than nothing. Jerry Lewis and the other members of this group have done more in 24 hours to gather people’s details and organise than the government has done in a month.” 

Maria Stefanova, 30, from East London, said: “Today I feel more hopeful, but I will not be completely at ease until that plane to London takes off. I hope it all goes well.” 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not respond to a request for comment. 

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