MPs Call on Foreign Office to Drop Sharm Flight Ban
MPs are calling on the Foreign Office to drop its ban on flights into Sharm El Shiekh airport.
Thirty-five MPS have signed an Early Day Motion calling for a new parliamentary debate on why the UK is one of the last countries in Europe to lift travel restrictions to Sharm.
Labour MP Stephen Timms, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt, told DIVE: 'The ban on UK flights to Sharm El Sheikh has long outlived its usefulness. Security at the airport has been greatly improved. Other countries have lifted their bans; we should do so too. Leaving the ban in place causes great inconvenience to many in the UK and serious problems for the Egyptian economy.'
The travel restrictions on flights to Sharm El Shiekh were imposed in 2015 after a Russian Metrojet A321 was brought down in the Sinai Desert, shortly after leaving Sharm airport, killing all 224 people on board.
At the time the airport security was criticised and international experts recommended a number of improvements.
Since then more than £20 million has been spent on improving security at the airport. Outdated equipment has been replaced. More than 7,000 staff have been trained by the UK aviation security firm Restrata. Background checks have been carried out on current staff and a new biometric ID system for all airport employees has been introduced.
In September 2016,Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, the then chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt, after three visits to Sharm, recommended that the travel restrictions be lifted, informing UK travel companies that representatives of the Department for Transport had told him that 'they felt the conditions to enable flights to resume had been met.'
Germany authorities resumed flights to Sharm a month after Sir Gerald's call for the UK restrictions to be lifted.
At the end of last year, in another House of Common's debate on the subject, Timms called on John Hayes, who was, until January 2018, the Minister for Transport Legislation and Maritime, to explain why the UK was one of the only country's to still impose travel restrictions on the airport.
The minister told the house: 'Our experts on the ground in Egypt have been working closely with the Egyptian authorities since the Metrojet crash, and it has been acknowledged that the level of security at the airport has improved from where it was before .... However, there is a wider range of security-related reasons, which the House would not expect me to go into in detail here, why we do not yet feel that we should resume flights.'
In an interview with the Telegraph, an unnamed 'senior Egyptian government official' commented: 'We find it difficult to understand why Britain keeps its ban on flights in place when virtually every other European country has given permission for its airlines to fly to Sharm El Sheikh.'
'The airport has passed every test set for it by British security officials,' he continues, 'and it is now time for the government to lift this ban and allow British tourists to visit this popular destination.'
More information on Early Day Motion 468 can be found on the government's website, and Mr. Timms has suggested that members of the public write to their MPs and ask them to sign the motion in order to bring it before parliament. The public petition to lift the flight ban is still active
Meanwhile business is improving in Sharm as more European tourists return to the destination. Last week Emperor Divers announced it has re-opened after an almost two-year absence