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As countries around the world have imposed bans on travellers coming to and from Britain, UK residents who went abroad over the Christmas break are grappling with the prospect of being stranded in another country.
Heather Alder, 23, lives in Edinburgh and travelled with her fiance to Aarhus in Denmark last week to visit his father and take him for cancer tests, which have since come back positive.
The couple were planning to fly back to the UK this week, but are now stuck in a remote farmhouse in Denmark. “Even if the travel ban is lifted in a few days or weeks, we don’t know whether we can leave and we don’t know whether we can get back in easily,” she said.
Alder started a new job in the UK last month, and is grateful that her boss has been accommodating. “My father-in-law’s house is about as remote as Denmark gets, so we’ve had to install new wifi in order to be able to work from here.
“My boss has been wonderful about it all, but my partner is studying and working part-time for a Danish company, but pays tax in the UK. If we get stuck here for longer, we might have to report it, and he could end up having to pay tax in Denmark, where income tax is at 48%. This would have a big impact on our finances. It’s very stressful.”
With the Brexit date on 31 December looming, Alder is frantically trying to figure out whether she will have to apply for a visa if she has to stay in Denmark for a while.
“It’s very concerning that on top of everything, I now need to sort out my status here before Brexit. Due to Christmas closures, that means submitting documentation so I can apply as an EU citizen for the right to stay by 23 December. Nobody seems to have an answer as to what Britons in Denmark should do in the new year. Obviously all our documents are in the UK, where we can’t return, which is making the whole process maddening and extremely worrying.
“The combination of Brexit and coronavirus has turned what was already a difficult situation into an unmanageable one.”
‘I can’t afford to miss work’
Mery Shahin, 25, has been living in the UK since 2014 and is doing a PhD at Imperial College London.
Last week, she flew to Bulgaria to visit her parents, and has since been told that flights back to the UK will be banned until 31 January, leaving her in limbo.
“I came to Bulgaria on 19 December and wanted to stay just for eight days to see my family, as I hadn’t seen them all year and my grandma is quite old. Now I could end up stuck here until the end of January; I don’t know what to do.
“I’ve spoken to the Bulgarian foreign ministry, who just said they can’t help me and wished me a good day. I spoke to the British embassy in Bulgaria, who told me they can’t predict the future and ended the phone call. I’m trying to get in touch with the airlines to see if they can reroute my flight so I can come back home to the UK but the phone lines are, understandably, incredibly busy.”
Shahin has settled status in the UK, but is worried that Brexit could cause trouble at the UK border if she tries entering the country in early January, should the ban be lifted by then.
“I have already missed three months of my PhD due to the first UK lockdown and I’m not getting an extension. If I have to stay in Bulgaria till February and then self-isolate when I finally come back to the UK, that would be nearly another two months missed. I can’t afford to miss that much work.”
‘I haven’t been back home since the summer’
Ella Hillyard, a 23-year-old English teacher in Málaga, was planning on going home to the UK on 24 December, but due to the new travel restrictions will not be making it home.
Having already missed out on family moments, particularly her sister’s wedding, due to Covid, she now worries about when she will be able to see her family again.
“I was in complete shock when I first heard about the restrictions,” said Hillyard. “Just a few days before, we were talking about how excited we all were about seeing each other. I haven’t been home since the summer.”
Due to Hillyard’s job, she needs to be back in Spain by 6 January, in time for schools starting, which only adds to the travel problem. If flights get cancelled and she finds herself stuck in the UK, she risks losing her job.
“All the government guidelines say that if you do travel to the UK, you have to be prepared that you might have to stay there longer, and I can’t do that,” she said. “I don’t want to lose my job because that’s what gives me the right to live in Spain.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘It’s very stressful’: Covid travel bans leave Britons stuck abroad | Coronavirus