British red tape forces Grangemouth's International Rescue Corps home from Japan rescue mission
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 18:24
MacDonald brands decision 'outrageous'
Grangemouth Councillor and SNP candidate for Falkirk East, Angus MacDonald has lambasted the British Embassy in Tokyo for refusing Grangemouth's International Rescue Corps the relevant paperwork to allow the rescue team to help Japan recover from the recent earthquake and tsunami, forcing them to return to Scotland today.
The International Rescue Corps said they were not given permission to work in Japan because it would have made the embassy legally responsible for them.
Grangemouth SNP Councillor Angus MacDonald said:
"This action by the British Embassy in Tokyo is not only outrageous, it is absolutely beyond belief. Here we have an experienced international rescue team refused entry, not by the Japanese but by the British, to a country torn apart by a natural disaster. This is the 32nd world disaster IRC have attended, yet their vast experience is not going to be utilised thanks to the stupidity of red tape at the British Embassy in Tokyo. The Foreign Office must first apologise forthwith, refund IRC their costs, and fly the team back out at the British Government's own expense"
A spokesman for the team said it was "gut-wrenching" to be stopped from helping by "your own country".
The Foreign Office said it helped them as much as they could.
A spokesman said it was a matter for the Japanese government as it is responsible for the rescue and humanitarian operations in the country.
Willie McMartin, operations director at Scotland-based International Rescue Corps (IRC), said: "The team has had excellent help from the Japanese embassy in London and the authorities in Tokyo but it broke down when they couldn't get the relevant paperwork from the British embassy in Tokyo.
"This was the 32nd world disaster we have been to and we've only had problems twice before with host governments in China and Afghanistan.
"We have never encountered the position where the British embassy, our own country, came up with a show-stopper."
Mr McMartin said the team had permission from the Japanese embassy in London but they could not get a letter of authorisation from British officials in Japan stating that they were a bona fide organisation.
They needed this so they could move around the country and buy fuel.
The team arrived in Tokyo on Monday night and caught a flight home at 1300 local time on Wednesday.