PM thanks public servants working over the festive season with surprise Christmas calls

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has surprised Public Servants with a phone call to say thank you for their hard work and to wish them a Merry Christmas along with the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key and the The Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Sir Philip Barton. 10 Downing Street. Picture by Rory Arnold / No 10 Downing Street

The Prime Minister surprised public servants working across the world this Christmas, calling them to personally thank them for their sacrifice and dedication in an unprecedented year of global challenge.

Alongside the FCDO Permanent Under-Secretary, Sir Philip Barton, and First Sea Lord Admiral Ben Key, the Prime Minister made surprise calls to diplomats in Pakistan, Somalia and Ukraine, as well as a Royal Navy ship sailing in Antarctica.

He told them the work of diplomats and armed forces this year, against a backdrop of such global instability, demonstrated the very best of the United Kingdom overseas.

And closer to home, the Prime Minister surprised Chris Mitchell who runs Smart Play, an award-winning government-funded Holiday Activities and Food programme in Barnet. The PM heard first-hand how Chris and the team are supporting vulnerable children across the area with fun activities and nutritious meals throughout the school holidays.

Speaking to diplomat Nic Guffog, who is based in Mogadishu, the Prime Minister heard how the dedicated foreign office staffer had been using her breather breaks and flights from the UK back to Somalia to bring in Christmas decorations for the UK’s diplomatic compound in Mogadishu. She told the Prime Minister how staff in Mogadishu were living in containers under the threat of terror attacks, and would spend Christmas supporting efforts to counter the threat posed by Al-Shabaab and helping the Somalian government deal with the hunger crisis facing the country.

Nic, who looks after the embassy compound in East Africa, said the order for Christmas dinner had to be placed in the spring, and had recently arrived by container ship. This year’s celebrations were particularly special for the embassy after a Covid outbreak last year meant staff couldn’t sit together in the compound on Christmas Day. Nic hoped to add festive cheer this year with handmade Santa stockings and Christmas jumpers, despite the 40C heat, she added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

Whether you are working in Mogadishu or Milton Keynes this Christmas, I want you to know that I am personally grateful for your sacrifice. This year has been an extraordinary year for so many reasons, but most of all, it’s been a year in which the true spirit and resilience of the United Kingdom has been on show, from the support given to our Ukrainian friends, to the work being done to ensure essential aid reaches the most vulnerable overseas.

And closer to home, those who have checked on friends and neighbours, volunteers, public servants and essential service staff all working over Christmas – I am truly humbled by your dedication and I know your selflessness this festive season will spread cheer across the country.

The Prime Minister also spoke to Sherwan Asif, from Pakistan, who has worked for the British High Commission in Islamabad for more than 12 years, and was at the forefront of the United Kingdom’s response to the devastating floods that ravaged the country in June. Sherwan identified areas in critical need and ensured UK funding reached the most vulnerable.

The Prime Minister also called Svita Yavorska, who has spent the year working for the UK’s embassy in Ukraine from Kyiv, Warsaw and now Lviv.  Svita told the Prime Minister how she had to flee to Poland following Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, before setting up the Embassy’s temporary base in Poland. Svita also volunteered translating for refugees pouring over the border into Poland, and helping them secure new homes. Svita has since returned to Lviv, Ukraine, to help set up a new UK base in the city. She is also working closely with humanitarian partners to get vital UK aid into the country. The Prime Minister told Svita how grateful he was for her hard work, and said the UK would continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it took.

Finally, the Prime Minister spoke to some of the crew of HMS Protector, which is currently deployed off the coast of the South Sandwich islands, updating navigational charts using the latest sonar technology, monitoring the retreat of glaciers and ice shelves, and supporting the British Antarctic Survey scientists by delivering vital supplies and fixing any engineering issues.

The Prime Minister heard how the shipmates are experiencing 20 hours of sunlight a day, and had seen whales, penguins and endangered turtles during their deployment, as well as surveying underwater volcanos, and losing 7-1 to members of the Monserrat national football team during a friendly game on shore.

Asking about their Christmas plans, the sailors told the Prime Minister they had planned a number of celebrations between keeping watch on the ship, including a fancy dress party and Christmas dinner for the ship’s company.

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