British rescuers say red tape blocked Japan mission

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A British rescue team hoping to help with the disaster effort in Japan said Wednesday they had been forced to return home after the British embassy in Tokyo denied them the necessary paperwork.

Willie McMartin, of the Scotland-based charity the International Rescue Corps, told the BBC a team of 12 volunteers had been granted permission by the Japanese embassy in London to travel to the quake- and tsunami-hit region of the country.

But when they arrived, the British embassy refused to give them the authorisation letter needed to obtain a permit to travel to the disaster area, he said.

"The UK embassy in Tokyo refused to issue that letter, in spite of having talked to the Japanese embassy in London, because they said they would then become responsible for the team," he told the BBC.

He added: "We were not asking them to take responsibility. We simply needed a sheet of paper to say that we were a genuine, bona fide, UK-based organisation."

McMartin said he was "disgusted" by the attitude of the embassy, and said he felt "sheer disbelief" at the situation.

© 2011 AFP

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