Grangemouth rescue team sent back from Japan

International Rescue Corps have attended dozens of disasters
International Rescue Corps have attended dozens of disasters

LOCAL experts at searching through tons of rubble for survivors are furious after being turned back from Japan.

Volunteers from the International Rescue Corps flew to the stricken country but were beaten back by a pile of paperwork this week.

The Grangemouth-based organisation sent more than a dozen of its members out to Japan on Monday to help in any way they could in the aftermath of last Friday’s disaster.

However, the team never got to leave Tokyo Airport after British Embassy officials refused to give them the necessary permission, even though they claimed they were there at the insistence of the Japanese Ambassador to London.

Angry IRC member Paul Baxter said: “We chose to withdraw the team as they were just sitting about the airport becoming increasingly frustrated.

“They had been waiting in the airport for nearly 24 hours with no assistance from the British Embassy whatsoever. Members back home also found it upsetting – we were geared up for this and had a team away that was never used.

“The Japanese Ambassador was instrumental in getting us over there in the first place, it’s a shame we weren’t allowed to do him proud.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said that, while an official rescue team from the UK had already started work in Japan, the IRC did not have the correct documentation.

He added that everything was being done to gain them access but that came too late for IRC.

Their mission aborted, the team donated their food and medical supplies to the Salvation Army working in the country and then caught a flight back home.

According to Willie McMartin, IRC operations director, the team never got the relevant paperwork from the British Embassy because officials refused to recognise them as a bona fide organisation, despite them attending more than 30 world disasters over the last three decades.

He said: “We have never before encountered the position where the British Embassy came up with a show-stopper.”

Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie said she was disgusted the team had been forced to withdraw from Japan and was going to table a motion in the Scottish Parliament.

She added: “I’m absolutely shocked and disgusted by this. The team is well known for the work it does throughout the world, so I’m disappointed the British Embassy has dragged its heels on this.”

Grangemouth Councillor Angus Macdonald said: “This action by the British Embassy in Tokyo is not only outrageous, it is absolutely beyond belief. Here we have an experienced international rescue team refused entry, not by the Japanese but by the British, to a country torn apart by a natural disaster.

“This is the 32nd world disaster IRC has attended, yet its vast experience is not going to be utilised thanks to the stupidity of red tape at the British Embassy in Tokyo.”

Councillor Macdonald added the Foreign Office should apologise to IRC and then refund their expenses.