A SCOTS mum stranded in Pakistan because of the coronavirus crisis has told of her relief of getting home – although she has not yet been able to give her children a hug.

Tabassum Niamat, from Glasgow, flew out to the country with her husband Niamat Ali and three-year-old son Imran Ali at the end of February for a family bereavement.

The Sunday National highlighted their plight after they became stuck when international flights were suspended and the country was locked down as part of efforts to try to contain the spread of Covid-19.

They finally managed to get tickets for a flight last weekend to be reunited with older children Zineerah Ali, 22, Muzainah Ali, 21 and Rayhan Ali, 18, who had stayed in Glasgow.

However, with the family living apart to observe 14-days of self-isolation as a precaution, Niamat said she was still looking forward to the day when she can see them properly.

She said: “What they did do was come to the front door from a distance – but I couldn’t hug them and I couldn’t touch them.

“It’s fine – we are just round the corner and they said we will video call just like when you were in Pakistan. That is a huge difference to being oceans away. I did not want my kids to get ill while I was not there, that was the main thing.”

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While she was stranded, Niamat set up a Facebook support group called Brits Stranded In Pakistan, which has nearly 2000 members.

She said many people were still stuck and dealing with issues such as running out of medication or struggling with mental health.

“I am so grateful and thankful to be here, but it wasn’t easy and I wasn’t helped by either the British Government or the Pakistani government,” she added. “I do feel guilty as well, because I know there are people still stranded there that need to be home.”

Niamat had managed to secure tickets home after it was announced special flights would be arranged back to the UK, run by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

But she said it turned into a “first come, first served” scramble, with problems accessing online booking and rogue travel agents targeting desperate travellers.

At one stage, she travelled more than three hours to the PIA office in Lahore to wait for hours – only to be told they couldn’t help her.

Thanks to the help of a friend’s travel agent they managed to secure tickets on April 9 – costing £2240 in total – for a flight which left the next morning.

“We had less than five hours to say goodbye to the family we were staying with and pack,” she said.

“When we got to the airport they had temperature checks, we were fine and let through.

“When we reached Manchester Airport it was a shock. We were told not to all leave at once, told to wait on the plane and it was an hour before they let us off.

“We had to leave in single file, were told to keep a two-metre distance and there were staff wearing gloves and facemasks.

“On the taxi journey home, I had never seen a motorway like it, ever. It felt eerie and hauntinghe only things we saw were HGV trucks, probably delivering food.

She continued: “When I left Britain, there was nothing like this at all. This isn’t the world I left, but we have to adjust now.”

The plight of British nationals who are stuck in various countries has been an ongoing issue since the coronavirus crisis began.

On Friday, SNP MP Alyn Smith was one of the signatories to a cross-party letter sent to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, calling for evacuation flights to be stepped up to bring UK citizens home.

It warns there is widespread concern across the House that many MPs have significant numbers of constituents trapped abroad during the crisis, adding “many are running out of funds or medicine – in some cases both”.

According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), around 1.3 million people have returned to the UK via commercial routes, with support from its team.

A total of 38 flights have so far been organised by the UK Government – bringing back more than 8000 people from 13 different countries and territories.

The FCO is launching more charter flights to help bring people from back to the UK, including 10 from Pakistan.

Niamat said: “There are so many other people that need to get back. I am hoping now they have announced those charters this can be done quickly and efficiently.”

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