The United Kingdom has evacuated over 17,000 of its citizens stranded in Nigeria and 13 other African countries as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement on its website explained that charter flights to evacuate Britons from countries in Africa have now flown over 150,000 miles, bringing people back from across six different time zones and enabling over 8,400 stranded travellers to return in addition to over 9,000 that the Foreign Office helped to return on commercial flights.
Elderly grandparents, families with babies and National Health Service (NHS) doctors were among the thousands of people helped by British Embassy and High Commission staff to get on flights after they got stranded while visiting family, working or on holiday.
It said in Nigeria, staff made sure a father got home in time for his son’s 14th birthday, the team in Kenya sorted emergency travel documents for a new-born baby without a passport and the High Commission in Ghana ensured a microbiologist made it back to work on the front line in the UK’s fight against the Coronavirus.
The number of British travellers returning on Government charter flights include: More than 2,200 from Nigeria; More than 4,300 from South Africa; More than 900 from Ghana; More than 200 from The Gambia; More than 200 from Sierra Leone; More than 100 from Tanzania; More than 150 from Sudan; More than 200 from Uganda; More than 100 from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon; More than 50 from West Africa (covering Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Cape Verde).
The Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, said: “The scale of these repatriation efforts is truly remarkable. It’s excellent news that so many people are being reunited with their families in the UK and I am very grateful for the sterling work by our embassy teams and to the Governments who have supported us.
“Since the outbreak in Wuhan, it is estimated that over 1.3 million people have returned to the UK via commercial routes. The majority of these routes were supported by the Foreign Office, which worked with airlines and foreign governments to keep vital transit hubs open and ensure that domestic restrictions didn’t pose a barrier to getting people home.
“In Nigeria, staff supported a family with toddlers to get home in time for a funeral, with the help of COVID-19 emergency loan to help purchase tickets for a special UK charter flight.
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“Our High Commission in Ghana arranged for hundreds of British travellers to get home to cities around the UK, including Edinburgh, Ipswich, Liverpool and London.
“Our staff in South Africa drove a collective 7,000 miles across the country to pick up a number of elderly passengers to make sure they got to the airport in time.
“On our flight from Tanzania, the team enabled 151 British travellers, including 15 children and 17 pensioners, to return to their families in Belfast, Glasgow and Bolton.”
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