Ascension Islanders ignored? FCO on the case

THE Foreign and Commonwealth Office is, “working hard to find an interim solution,” to the situation caused by the suspension of flights to Ascension Island, a spokesperson told Penguin News this week.

Although flights between the Falklands and the UK have been rerouted, Penguin News felt the Secretary of State for Defence Mark Lancaster, had ignored the plight of people and businesses on Ascension itself when he responded to questions on the subject asked in Parliament by Kevan Jones MP.

Mr Lancaster only commented on the impact on the UK’s “operational needs,” when responding to a question from Kevan Jones, MP (a former shadow Defence Minister) who asked what effect the suspension would have.

Penguin News  contacted the FCO directly and the spokesperson said: “Following bad weather on Ascension Island in spring 2017, a full inspection of the US-owned runway was carried out.  This found extensive damage, making it unsafe for the heavier aircraft used to travel between the UK and Ascension Island.  As a result the runway will need to be fully rebuilt.”

“We know this has had a real impact on those working and living on the island and are working closely with the US, Ascension Island employers, and administrations on the Falkland Islands and St Helena to agree a solution that is safe and cost-effective.

“In the meantime, Islanders can continue to use the existing routes via Cape Town to the UK. We appreciate this is a difficult time for those on Ascension Island and are working hard to find an interim solution as quickly as possible until the runway is fully repaired.”

“In addition, Overseas Territories Minister Lord Ahmad will be speaking to Counsellors on the Island on Friday to hear their concerns and update on UK government progress .”
Penguin News also asked Kevan Jones MP among other questions, what he had made of the impact that the suspension of the flights would have on the economy of Ascension Island, and what steps might be taken to assist people wishing to travel between the Falkland Islands and St Helena. 

His office responded saying they were grateful for the additional insight and Mr Jones would be putting questions to the FCO and he hoped to have answers within five days.

Manager of Seafish Chandlery in the Falklands, Neville Hayward, one of those stranded in Ascension Island when the flights ceased, recently oversaw the opening of a retail arm of the Chandlery there, and it follows that the shop will be negatively impacted on by the situation. Penguin News hopes to speak with Mr Hayward on his return. He is currently in transit on the RMS St Helena between Cape Town and Ascension Island.