THE UK Government is doing “everything we can” to get stranded Britons back home, Dominic Raab has insisted as he announced that some 83 chartered flights will have brought home 20,000 people from south Asia by next week.

During the daily Downing St briefing, the Foreign Secretary said the Government had made “enormous progress” in returning British nationals from abroad in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Secretary of State noted that since the outbreak in China around the turn of the year the Government had helped 1.3 million Britons to return on commercial flights, working with airlines and foreign governments. These included more than 200,000 UK nationals from Spain, 50,000 from Australia and over 11,000 from Pakistan.

As well as those commercial flights, the Government has recently secured new chartered flights, which by May 7 will have helped bring home more than 20,000 Britons, including 9,000 from India, 2,000 from South Africa and 1,200 from Peru.

Mr Raab also mentioned how the Government faced a “daunting task” as borders were closed of getting home 19,000 British passengers on 60 cruise ships. “We stuck at it and six weeks later, we have got all 19,000 British passengers back home safe and sound,” he declared.

The Secretary of State explained Whitehall had already chartered 58 flights returning 12,000 people from South Asia.

“In recent days, we announced 28 more charter flights with the capacity to get 7,000 more Brits back home; that scheduling would be up to around May 7. They include 14 flights from India, another nine from Pakistan and five from Bangladesh.

“So, we are doing everything we can to get stranded Brits…from across the country home.”

Mr Raab praised the “outstanding work” of consular staff, who had worked night and day, alongside staff from the Foreign Office and the Department for Transport, who had “put in a great shift”.

But he made clear: “The job has not yet done and as long as there are people in that predicament we want to see what more we can do.”

Earlier in a Commons statement, Nigel Adams, the Foreign Office minister, acknowledged around 50,000 British nationals were believed to be still stranded abroad.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, while welcoming the repatriation flights, expressed concern about the number of people who were still in foreign countries unable to return home.

“I have been told repeatedly that there can be no accurate assessment because, although some embassies record those who approach them for help, others do not. We do need to know who is stranded and where, so will the minister now ensure that his Department now counts and publishes those statistics, so that we can bring those numbers down rapidly?” she asked.

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Can the minister commit to an inquiry into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office handling of this issue in due course so that we can learn lessons for the future, not least focusing on the issue of de-funding of the FCO network, which has left it really at a loss that it didn't have the capacity to cope?"

Mr Adams replied that "no doubt this will be something that we do look at in the cold light of day" but he insisted his department had "done a pretty good job" so far.