Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Mumbai terror attack victim ‘abandoned’ by UK
A British victim of the 26/11 terror attacks has accused his government of ignoring his plight, prompting a cross-political call for a fund that would help Britons injured or disabled in terrorist attacks abroad.
Will Pike, a 29-year-old Londoner who was in the Taj Mahal hotel at the time of the Mumbai attacks and now faces a lifetime in a wheelchair, told the Observer that he is having to cope with just £15,000 in financial aid from a government-backed Red Cross fund.
Like others, Pike returned home after the attacks to find he was not covered by the compensation scheme set up after the 7 July 2005 bombings in London to help all victims of terror attacks, of whatever nationality, on UK soil.
He said he felt terribly “let down”, at a time when he had hoped the government and the prime minister would show “condolence” and “care”. His father, Nigel, has launched a private appeal for contributions to help Will rebuild his life.
Lord Daniel Brennan, a prominent barrister and Labour peer, who has been campaigning for families affected by terror attacks abroad, said: “It is a shameful state of affairs. Any decent country would be ashamed to find itself in this position.”
He pointed out that other western countries have systems in place to provide compensation for citizens who fall victim to terror attacks abroad. The annual cost of setting up a compensation fund in the UK would be just £3m, he added.
Noting a growing sense of “community” in Britain amid the economic crisis, as demonstrated by the outcry in support of the Gurkhas, Brennan said: “People may find it very difficult to explain what justice is. But they very readily understand what an injustice is. And this is an injustice.”
The Pike family’s constituency MP, Liberal-Democrat Lynne Featherstone, on Saturday sent a letter to the prime minister urging him to intervene. “Just as we have a moral obligation to the Gurkhas, we also have a moral obligation to those who are injured by those who perpetrate terrorist attacks on our citizens—wherever in the world they become targets,” she wrote.
Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP whose younger brother died in the Bali bombings in 2002, said: “What upsets me most is that the budget for counter-terrorism has actually gone up, from £1.2bn to £2bn. And yet the government still isn’t willing to use a little bit of that money to help those people who have actually suffered.”
Labour MP and former Foreign Office minister Ian McCartney, who secured an adjournment debate in the Commons last year to try to spur government action, said: “The situation is totally unacceptable. Terrorism is an attack not on individuals but on a state, as Mumbai made clear. A state’s duty is to its citizens.”
Pike said he and his family had been left to fend for themselves since 26/11.
“When you read about things like this in the paper, when they happen to other people, you assume there is some sort of system in place. You assume these people must be being looked after,” he told the Observer. “But actually what we felt as the days and weeks passed…was a sense of despondency, of being let down, of just sinking through the system.”
Newspaper Articles, 11th May 2009