The Dutch foreign ministry has been inundated with calls from Dutch nationals and foreign residents stranded in the UK by the travel ban imposed since Sunday.
On a normal Sunday, the ministry’s 24/7 contact centre’s phone rings some 330 times but this Sunday the total shot up to 800, and a further 700 people asked for help via email and message services, the AD reported on Tuesday.
Most of the callers, the AD said, are in a panic about getting back to the Netherlands for Christmas.
📞 Ben je gestrand en heb je dringend hulp nodig? Buitenlandse Zaken is bereikbaar via +31 247 247 247 pic.twitter.com/Hyfct8jxQ6
— 24/7 BZ (@247BZ) December 21, 2020
DutchNews.nl too has received dozens of calls from people who are either stuck in Britain or unsure what the ban means for their travel plans.
British national and Haarlem resident Sarah Thompson travelled to the UK a week ago to see her family, whom she had not seen since August.
‘I drove to make the journey as safe as possible, however now I am stuck, away from my Dutch partner and our home for the foreseeable future,’ she told DutchNews.nl.
‘I know I am luckier than most and that I am at my parents house, so I do feel blessed. However, the lack of information is filling me with anxiety…I find often as an ‘expat’ I am forgotten about by both countries and do not receive any information or guidance on what to do.’
British national John lives in Rotterdam and says he very much regrets not following the Dutch travel advice not to travel abroad.
‘With the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and coronavirus, and thinking that it might not be possible to visit for a long time once the UK becomes a ‘third country’ on 1 January, I made the decision to visit over Christmas. If the post-Brexit rules had been clearer (from both governments) I would likely not have made this decision.’
‘I was due to return to the Netherlands on 26th December, hoping to beat the Brexit deadline on 1 January. Now I am stuck in the UK unable to return by any route, and awaiting further information. Who knows for how long.’
He too has been angered by the UK and Dutch government’s reactions. ‘I chose to live in the Netherlands due to its reputation as a pragmatic and caring country, yet the way they have behaved here is shocking. The lack of information is unacceptable.’
Student Lydia is studying at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and has been in the country since September. She is one of hundreds of students facing Christmas in the UK because of the travel ban.
‘I am being punished and banned from my country because some people wanted a vacation to London,’ she told DutchNews.nl. ‘Scotland has been extremely vigilant and has very low case numbers, I personally have tested negative for Covid four times this month.
Lydia said she is not planning to return to Scotland until next September, but is now stuck, alone in her flat, ‘To have my own government tell me that I am not important to them and that I should sort out my own problem that they caused is unacceptable.’
In addition to people visiting family, business people and students, hundreds of lorry drivers have also been stuck in Britain since large parts of mainland Europe said it would no longer accept people from the UK, which has been hit by a more infectious version of coronavirus.
The Dutch road hauliers association TLN has urged the cabinet to do its utmost to ensure lorry drivers can return to the Netherlands ‘to celebrate Christmas’, and France and Britain are in talks on re-opening the Channel tunnel from Wednesday.
Nevertheless, although freight traffic has not been banned from ferries, ‘it is really busy everywhere’, a spokesman for transport firm Van Heugten Transport from Scherpenzeel told the NRC.
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