EK’s Scott in Cuba to help
Efforts to bring Brits home
An East Kilbride Foreign Office worker helped rescue hundreds of stranded Brits from a coronavirusstricken cruise ship in Cuba.
Scott Simpson, 49, originally from Greenhills and whose parents still live in the town, was part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) rapid deployment team .
The mission was to rescue 671 vulnerable British passengers and 13 foreign nationals stranded on the Fred Olsen cruise ship Braemar.
He was a team leader for the deployment to Havana and was among 17 Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) officials, alongside members of the British Red Cross and army medics.
A number of people on the ship had tested positive for coronavirus or had begun showing its symptoms – a new continuous cough or a high fever.
Scott told the News: “The team demonstrated the very essence of what being a civil servant is about, helping people who couldn’t help themselves and putting the interests of others ahead their own.
“The passengers must have had a terribly stressful ordeal.
“But when at the airport, I recall the coaches arriving one by one with passengers smiling and waving at me as they drove past, seeing my high-vis vest with the British flag on it.
“I hope this gave them reassurance that their Government was there for them in their time of need and helping to get them home.”
After several days at sea, and following urgent discussions between the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the Cuban Foreign Minister, Cuba allowed the Braemar to dock in Havana and agreed that the passengers could fly out of José Martí International Airport on four specially organised flights.
Scott flew out in advance to assist with the preparation for ensuring there were no issues at the Port and Airport, delivering essential medical supplies to the ship, giving advice to passengers and working with the Cuban authorities to ensure the logistics were in place for the flights to run smoothly.
He was then at the airport to liaise with the Cuban authorities and supervise the departure of the British Airways flights bringing the passengers back to the UK.
Scott joined the FCO in 1991 and was Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Costa Rica from 2008 to 2013.
He has previously served in Thailand, Peru and Greece.
The Foreign Office’s Rapid Deployment Team was established after the 2002 Bali bombings and are always on call to help deal with crises affecting British nationals around the world.
Volunteers like Scott are on standby each week and deploy in under 24hours to assist a local team in an emergency.
Rescue effort Scott has been at the forefront of attempts to return British nationals stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Cuba because of fears of having coronavirus
The first step The first Brits are loaded onto specially arranged flights to bring them home