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No-fly Joe still stranded in UAE

Family also considers long sea journey to take son home to UK permanently

Image Credit: Courtesy: The Thompson family
If a third visa attempt is successful, Thompson said he willact quickly to buy a vehicle and start his journey.
01 Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The British father of an 11-year-old boy who refuses to fly from Abu Dhabi to the UK because he is afraid to fly is appealing to the Saudi Arabian government on humanitarian grounds for a visa to travel overland through the country on the first leg of a journey home.

Anthony Thompson, 63, an aide to former UK deputy prime minister John Prescott, has been denied visa entry twice by the Saudis thwarting his latest attempt to drive overland to Jeddah and board a ship with son Joe bound for Egypt.

“ ”
-Anthony Thompson | 
Joe’s father
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It appears the Saudi government may be listening to his latest appeal after a senior official at the Saudi embassy in London contacted him asking for more details about Thompson’s planned overland trip in lieu of a normal flight from Abu Dhabi.

Thompson has replied via email, spelling out his family’s plight and outlining the reasons behind his request for a visa.

He remains optimistic that a third visa application may be approved allowing he and Joe to finally begin the 5,000-plus kilometre trek home through Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Europe and into the UK.

“I’m hoping that the Saudis will see this as a humanitarian case,” said Thompson, who is stranded in Abu Dhabi after five failed attempts to fly young Joe home, forcing the family to plan an alternative overland or sea trip. “I just want to get Joe home,” he added.

Even the overland trip is fraught with troubles in terms of forward planning, he told Gulf News, given that he has sold his car and would need to buy another because travellers are not allowed to take hired cars out of the UAE.

If a third visa attempt is successful, Thompson said he will act quickly to purchase a vehicle and then embark on his journey.

Unsure of the certainty of securing a Saudi visa, Thompson is working on yet another alternative route home by sea, possibly through Muscat, Oman.

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If Thompson can book a cabin aboard a passenger or cargo ship, he is hopeful he can find a vessel that has charted a journey rounding Africa and northward into the Suez Canal to take them to Egypt.

Thompson said he is working with a shipping company that is searching for the best possible marine vessel whose commercial track aligns with the Thompson family’s push to return home.

“I’ve got lots of contacts and they’re trying to find the best options,” Thompson said. “I’ve got some great responses from people and shipping companies. It’s just getting that one bit of fortune with a route out.”

He thanked British Embassy officials for assistance, noting that diplomatic mission staffers told him that the case of the Thompson family not being able to return home permanently because of young Joe’s fear of flying is an unusual one.

“The British Embassy has told me they have never had to deal with this before,” Thompson said.

For now, all Thompson can do is try his best to find passage home, even if it means taking a slow boat back to the UK.

Some timetables he has looked at call for passage at sea for up to 30 days in transit.

The hardest part of being stranded, said Thompson, is the inability to make things happen.

“I want to do something rather than just sitting around,” he said.