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Kentford pensioner stranded in Australia

A Kentford pensioner who is currently stranded in Australia said he felt he, and other British visitors stuck in the country, had been abandoned by the Government.

Seventy-one-year-old Roger Harrison flew to Australia two months ago to visit his brother in Canberra.

On Tuesday, he took an internal flight to Melbourne ready to board his Emirates flight home to London. But when he arrived at the airline’s desk he was greeted by a sign which said it was closed for the foreseeable future.

Roger Harrison (32365492)
Roger Harrison (32365492)

He went to the British Embassy only to be greeted by another closed sign and no-one answering telephone calls. Back at the airport the few replacement tickets available had soared in price with airlines selling them for thousands of pounds.

Faced with the prospect of sleeping in a chair in the airport for the forseeable future, Roger, who was a firefighter in Bury St Edmunds for 17 years, met Coventry couple 23-year-old Laurelle Thomas and Chris Cox, 27, who had been travelling and living in Australia since January. Around four weeks ago they had moved into an apartment. They had got jobs but in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic had now lost them and like Roger were trying to get home.

“Luckily, we have a spare room in our apartment that we have for one more month,” said Laurelle, “so we told him he can come and stay with us. I have never seen someone so helpless and grateful, it broke my heart. Why did airline staff in Canberra let Roger board his flight to Melbourne, knowing he could not board his connecting flight with Emirates?

“None of Roger’s family know the situation he is now in as he doesn’t have a contact number for them. So if this could reach his family in England or his brother in Canberra he would forever grateful.”

Roger’s only family is his brother in Australia and two sisters in Dorset, and he does not have a mobile phone.

“When I was sat at the airport I felt completely lost with no options. Completely hopeless. Thanks to Laurelle and Chris, I feel confident in their hands that they will do everything to help get me home,” he said.

“The service British Citizens are receiving is disgusting and I have never seen anything like it in my whole lifetime. I just want the government to do something, please give us some information, anything at all.”

Earlier this week Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had urged tourists to get home within 48 hours while they could andadmitted that financial assistance for stranded British tourists would only be granted as a last resort after he said they would be offered emergency loans to get them home.