Left to fend for themselves
Left to Fend For Themselves
First published in The Times, 1 September 2006.
Last week, more Britons were involved in terrorist bombings while on holiday, this time in Turkey. The reality is, British tourists are easy targets and will continue to be on the "front line" in the fight against terrorism: 67 were killed in the destruction of the World Trade Centre and since then a further 43 have been killed in other attacks around the world. The numbers injured, of course, were much greater.
What many people do not realise is that the families who lost loved ones to those attacks — in many cases families lost their breadwinner — have received little or no financial support from the Government. The same goes for those that were seriously injured.
The victims of the 7/7 bombings in London have received some support from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The amounts on offer have been strongly condemned by those who were injured and a review of the scheme is currently underway, but they at least got something. But CICA covers only crimes that occurred on UK soil; Britons affected by terrorism abroad cannot approach it for help.
Tony Blair indicated last year that the Government was looking to establish a scheme that would provide support to victims of terrorism abroad, but no such scheme has yet emerged. As I understand it, there will soon be an announcement from Tessa Jowell's department that, aside from a modest initial sum, there will be no long-term financial support offered.
The Red Cross has been asked to contact the victims of the Turkish bombings and offer them a cheque for £3000, but this will not last long and those seriously injured will be left cut off, unable to work, wondering how to pay their mortgage and bills.
This failure to act on the part of the Government merely furthers the aim of the terrorists. Terror is a tool of intimidation, its aim to unsettle and infiltrate society. Causing injury is the first step, creating economic fear the second.
Countries such as France, Australia, USA, Italy and Israel have recognised the need to assist their own citizens involved in terrorism abroad. All have schemes in place which provide financial support in such circumstances, providing a level of comfort.
The Government's failure to provide financial support is even more difficult to understand when you consider that a terrorism fund of at least £1.6 billion already exists. The "Pool Re" was set up in 1993 following bombings by the IRA to provide reinsurance mostly to commercial property, with the Government in turn reinsuring the fund through a Retrocession Agreement with the Treasury. The Treasury, therefore, is the insurer in the last resort.
Pool Re's remit was extended after 9/11, but not to cover civilians. The scheme could be extended to cover victims of terrorism abroad and the sums that would be paid out would be modest in comparison to the size of the fund. No doubt there would need to be an agreement with the insurance industry to do so. This is the same industry of course that regularly uses the terrorism exclusion in the travel insurance policy to avoid payment to those most in need.
It is one of many options that have been put to the Government that appear to have been dismissed. Ignoring British citizens in such desperate need is fundamentally wrong and a real failure on the part of the Government to recognise its responsibility to protect its people. Terrorist attacks against tourists will happen again. How many more people need to be maimed and killed before the Government takes action?
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