Spike in crowdfunding posts as desperate Britons abroad try to get home
By Taz Ali, PA
Dozens of British families stuck abroad due to coronavirus restrictions are trying to crowdfund their way home as a last resort.
Crowdfunding page GoFundMe said a keyword search on its website shows a 54% increase in campaigns in the last week mentioning being stuck abroad, and a 33% increase in campaigns mentioning being stranded overseas.
Elizabeth Hazlewood, from Shrewsbury in Shropshire, created a crowdfunding page after being left stranded in Tunisia.
The 52-year-old support worker travelled to the country on Friday March 6 and was scheduled to fly back on Wednesday.
But her flight home was cancelled after the country suspended commercial air travel to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Ms Hazlewood said she is staying in a hotel in the capital Tunis and is waiting further instructions from the British embassy.
“I am running out of money rapidly,” she added. “I really am stressed because of the situation and feel totally lost and alone.”
Another crowdfunding page was created for a family of four from Leswalt, south-west Scotland, who are stuck in Florida.
George McMillan, 43, his wife Kim, 42, and their children Finlay, 13 and Ruby, five, travelled to the popular holiday destination on March 5.
But their holiday plans were scuppered after Disney World Florida announced it would close due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr McMillan, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, said their flights to the UK were cancelled and they were soon to be kicked out of their hotel.
“It’s been very stressful, more so these last few days as in two days time that’s us out of the hotel,” he said.
“I have enough medication to see me through to about Saturday.”
While flights have been arranged for their return, Mr McMillan said they were not guaranteed.
“There is (so) much conflicting information, we are effectively in the dark,” he added.
Meanwhile, Adam Smith, 32, from Nazeing in Essex, and his girlfriend were two months into their travels across central America when they found themselves stuck in El Salvador.
Mr Smith said the country has enforced curfews and travel restrictions, with only one person per household allowed to go out to visit a supermarket, bank or pharmacy.
He has been speaking to the British embassy to arrange flights home but has not been told when this could happen.
He described the response from the UK Government as “responsive but so far lacking any detailed plan of action”.
Describing the atmosphere in El Salvador since the lockdown, he said: “Orderly – everyone we’ve spoken to has been 100% behind the president’s response.”
A GoFundMe spokesman said: “A quick keyword search shows a rise in campaigns for stranded families.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed for all Brits trying to get back home before borders and travel routes close.”
A spokesman from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said: “We recognise British tourists abroad are finding it difficult to return to the UK because of the unprecedented international travel and domestic restrictions that are being introduced around the world – often with very little or no notice.
“The Government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.”