Families were split and plans had to be remade when travel rules between France and the UK tightened just a week before Christmas.
The rules are not the same in both directions and are more serious for some.
Dominic Barkley, 42, a security worker from London, told The Connexion how the ban means he cannot travel to see his father, who is ill with incurable stage 4 bowel cancer in France.
He would have been able to if the situation was reversed and he lived in France and his father in the UK, or if he was French.
“When someone is as ill as he is, you want to spend as much time with them as you can,” said Mr Barkley. “You don’t know if this Christmas will be the last.”
He could not see his father Bill, 66, who lives in Nord, last Christmas due to the visitor ban then in place and has not seen him for 18 months.
With his father’s health deteriorating he was counting on being with him this Christmas but was then banned under the rule changes.
“It seems cruel when students or lorry drivers can travel but I can’t. There should be some understanding of circumstances like mine,” he said.
We asked the French interior ministry why compassionate reasons are not included in the list for Britons to visit France but have not received an answer.
French people, wherever they live, can come to France, as can their immediate family – as Britons can to the UK.
However, visiting seriously ill close family at risk of death is one of the official essential reasons given for visiting the UK from France, but not in reverse.
Essential reasons have been in place between the two countries for unvaccinated people for some time but, due to the high level of the Omicron variant in the UK, they were imposed in both directions for all travellers by France.
A list of reasons for UK travel was issued and travel advice against visiting was given which could affect travel insurance.
The list for entering France is limited mostly to French people and residents of France, including Britons and their families benefiting from the Withdrawal Agreement. It does not include adult offspring living in the UK.
Mr Barkley said he blamed the UK government, and those who had not taken precautions, more than the French. He said he had done everything that was asked, but just as things seemed to be returning “more to normal” his plans were cancelled again.
Mr Barkley said he could not arrange travel before the rule change, which was announced less than 48 hours in advance. His mother, retired teacher Lesley, 60, said: “It’s distressing for us. We can’t go to England, because Bill has lost a lot of movement in his legs. He’s too ill. It seems a shame that we live here and pay our taxes but are treated differently from French nationals.”
We asked the French consulate in London if compassionate reasons can be considered and were told that authorisations may be delivered in exceptional circumstances, including for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. Requests should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
People with urgent compassionate grounds can also contact the British consular service in France. There is a contact form here.
We have passed on this information to the family.
It has not been said how long the essential reasons rule will be in place or when it will be reviewed.