Good stories on consular support for EU citizens stranded abroad
The EEAS supported Member States with their consular assistance to EU citizens through its network of local consular correspondents in the 143 EU Delegations. The EU “consular toolkit” involves practical information to EU citizens in third countries on their options. This includes EU collaboration on repatriating EU citizens and advice on how to handle travel restrictions around the world.
"Repatriation efforts are aimed at EU travellers who have been stranded abroad. We are not talking about permanent residents (...) Our priority is to bring these people home", said High Representative Josep Borrell in a video conference after the last Foreign Affairs Council. On Friday 27 March, the Commission proposed to make some extra €45 million available from the EU budget to help Member States repatriate EU nationals.
The priority was to repatriate EU citizens via commercial flights. However, when this option was no longer possible, the European Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) of DG ECHO, together with EEAS and EU Member States, stepped in to assess difficult situations worldwide demanding special assets (flights, ships). EU Member States could then activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), which coordinated and co-financed up to 75% of the special transport assets mobilised for repatriation.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, more than 590.000 people have been flown back to Europe thanks to flights organised by the Member States. In addition, the UCPM has so far facilitated the repatriation of around 60.000 EU citizens to Europe from countries all over the world.
Where has the EU provided support?
Middle East and North Africa
A repatriation flight organised by the Polish Embassy left on 27 March for Warsaw, with a stopover in Dresden, with European nationals from various countries.
Last night the EU Delegation managed to solve in record time a rather intricate issue concerning an initially denied overflight authorisation requested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq to the PL authorities for an Iraqi plane flying today to Frankfurt. Yesterday night PL gave its assent, joining all other interested EUMS (including Romania, Bulgaria) and Germany, who agreed to the overflight and landing in Frankfurt in order to repatriate Iraqi citizens stranded there.
When most airlines had stopped their services, the coordination at both capital and local level resulted in the safe return of about 630 EU citizens. Thanks to the coordinated local efforts, sufficient capacities could be organised at commercial airlines, so it was not necessary to activate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. DG ECHO monitored the situation closely.
After close coordination by the EU Delegation together with EU Member States, Kuwait is ready to provide transport to certain European destinations for EU nationals who may wish to return to Europe [on the special outbound chartered flights that will soon be flying to various European cities in order to pick up Kuwaiti citizens for repatriation]. Kuwait will also start bringing back its citizens from several EU countries.
Close to 30.000 EU tourists stranded in Morocco have already returned to their countries. Over 600 EU citizens were brought back in two Austrian flights under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. HR/VP Borrell spoke to Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita on Sunday 15 March to address the situation of European citizens still remaining in the country and trying to return to Europe. As a result, Morocco authorities granted an extension to return flights until 22 March.
The EU Delegation has persuaded the Moroccan authorities to authorise departures via the port of Tanger and made logistic arrangements with a ferry company covering the route Tanger-Sète. A first ship transporting 326 EU tourists and 160 camping cars sailed on 29 March. A second departure is expected on 2 April. The EU Delegation and EU Member States have also shown solidarity as regards citizens from the UK and partner countries (Norway, Switzerland) by supporting the repatriation of an additional 10.000 of their citizens.
The EU Delegation for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has initiated a coordination process, including with the UK and the US, for a chartered flight from Muscat to either Doha or Manama, where travellers can get a connecting flight back to Europe and the US.
The occupied Palestinian territory
The EU provided support to the Palestinians with an assistance package of around €71 million in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM Rafah) donated a portable rapid deployable fever screening system to fight against the COVID-19 virus, and also to help prevent the spread of other diseases. This thermal imaging system, formally known as the WG520 was installed on 8 April 2020 at Al Karamah Crossing, the main crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank.
Four RO seafarers who had been blocked on board their vessel moored in Doha, were allowed to disembark last Saturday and were transferred to the airport in order to go back to Europe. The EU Delegation in Kuwait played a significant role in the coordination of the exercise with the Qatari authorities.
The EU Delegation and a Member State embassy coordinated a repatriation flight on 27 March to carry 250 nationals from 8 EU Member States, while liaising with local authorities. The EU Delegation has in the last few days, assumed the leadership in coordinating the road transportation of EU / Schengen nationals from various parts of the country to the two major airports in Riyadh and Jeddah for their repatriation flights. Moreover, it assumed an even more proactive role in providing consular assistance to EU nationals of non-represented Member States, coordinating their transport to the airports and issuing, when necessary, certificate letters and requesting permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for them to travel despite the imposed curfew. The Greek Embassy organised a flight to Athens. 98 Europeans from eleven member states seized the opportunity and flew back home. The Dutch Embassy organised, in close cooperation with the Italian Embassy, a flight from Riyadh to Amsterdam via Rome, carrying 270 passengers from 16 EU Member States. A Dutch-Italian convoy of eight buses transferred EU nationals from 10 EU Member States from the Eastern Province to Riyadh airport, ahead of the flight. Two other o flights were organized to Paris (22/4) and Vienna (24/4) offering seats to all EU / Schengen nationals.
A number of EU citizens were repatriated from Socotra (Yemen) via the UAE.
Europe & Central Asia
The Albanian government also supported in the repatriation of more than 70 EU Member States citizens still stranded in Albania since the outbreak in the country of the Coronavirus. Another tangible example of the concrete solidarity that Albania is providing in time of need.
More than 1.000 EU citizens, who were in Montenegro at the time of the coronavirus epidemic outbreak, have returned to their countries thanks to the committed cooperation of the Government of Montenegro and EU Member State embassies, coordinated by the EU Delegation to Montenegro. Since 17 March, more than 20 flights and trips by road were organised bringing EU citizens safely back home.
On 08 April, 62 Europeans left from Tajikistan on a special flight to Munich, open on short notice to passengers.
Thanks to a well-coordinated cross-border consular cooperation, all EU citizens residing in Turkmenistan who expressed wish to leave the country were able to get a seat onboard a special flight from Turkmenabad to Paris with a stopover in Prague.
300 Europeans, of which 70 French, returned home in good health after a 14-day quarantine in Uzbekistan.
Asia and Pacific
Coordinating closely with EU Member States, the EU Delegation contributed to maintaining and increasing the number of available seats on commercial flights to Europe. The EU Delegation and Member States actively and repeatedly liaised with the Australian Government to facilitate transit though Australia of EU and foreign citizens going back home from across the region. The number of EU / Schengen stranded citizens in the country diminished by 10 000 in approximately ten days.
With the support of the EU delegation in Singapore, a flight bound to Amsterdam left Bali on the 25th of March with 288 passengers onboard. The plane transited via Singapore where 71 more passengers were boarded to safely reach Europe.
The EU Delegation is working to provide information to Member State about flights operating and cancellations, transit restrictions and closures, in communication with the other Delegations in the region. The Delegation has taken the coordination of the requests of EU citizens that could benefit of some seats made available by France for a flight to Paris.
Joint EU and Member States efforts over several days brought back thousands of EU citizens from the Wuhan province, including with several flights co-funded by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Nearly 300 Europeans, from the European Union, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are on their way home from Fiji, including 183 on a repatriation flight operated by Fiji Airways and chartered by Germany. Others were able to transit back to Europe on flights to Sydney and Los Angeles.
The EU delegation is liaising with the Indian authorities and is actively supporting and coordinating the member states in the organization of repatriation flights for the several thousands of European tourists.
The EU delegation has been asked to coordinate with EU Member states and facilitate in preparing the list of EU non German passengers on two flights from Delhi organized by the German government, planned for the 25th and 26th of March, on top of assisting the registration process on the day of departure. The Delegation is also in charge of coordinating the loading of EU citizens for other German flights from other destinations in India, as Mumbai, Goa, Chennai and Bangalore.
The delegation is also in contact with the WHO and has identified two doctors to provide medical advice to the Europeans.
The EU Delegation to Indonesia supported the repatriation flights organized by several Member States to get citizens back home. In total, 15 flights have departed over the past 8 days organised by Lithuania, Austria, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, and Czech Republic.
All in all, almost 6,000 European citizens managed to get back to Europe, with a focus on the elderly, the sick and families with children.
Japan and the US
A number of cruise ships with many EU citizens on board have been denied permission to call at several ports in different regions of the world.
- EEAS services assisted EU Member States actively in coordinating the local handling regarding return flights and assistance of citizens in quarantine or undergoing health checks.
- The situation of the Diamond Princess in Yokohama and the Grand Princess in Oakland (California), required the repatriation of EU citizens under the activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
- Especially in the case of the Grand Princess, the active 24/7 engagement of EEAS HQ and the EU delegation in Washington have proven decisive for the successful repatriation of citizens.
After the confirmation of the first Coronavirus cases in different resort islands, the Maldives government put several measures in place: health checks, temporary lockdown of resorts, isolation/treatment where necessary.
Since there is no diplomatic representation by any EU Member State in the capital, Malé, nor an EU Delegation, the German Embassy in Colombo employed its consular team to assess situation and to assist tour operators responsible for organising commercial return flights.
The EU Delegation in Colombo travelled to the Maldives, held talks with relevant authorities and organised local coordination meetings with EU Honorary Consuls and German diplomats, associating also British diplomats.
In Sri Lanka, from 15 March, an entry ban for citizens from a number of EU countries is in place. Travellers from these countries still arriving may either return with the next available flight or undergo a 14-day quarantine. The EU Delegation and EU Member States’ embassies cooperate closely with local authorities and airlines to facilitate the timely return of affected EU citizens via commercial means.
Over 2000 people have been brought back to Europe from Nepal. Eight repatriation flights were organised so far: 4 by Germany, 2 by France, 1 by the Netherlnads, and 1 by Czechia. The selection of passengers was made through the use of a database of the EU delegation on citizens stranded in Nepal and wishing to repatriate. The majority of the European citizens selected for the flights were among the most and next vulnerable: elderly, disabled, families.
The first repatriation flight left Wellington on Saturday morning with citizens of 20 EU countries wishing to go back to Europe. The EU delegation coordinated the flight gathering all the requests, contacting the Member States for offering the available seats and compiling the final list of passengers.
The repatriation operations were specially challenging due to the 7.000 islands of the Philippines archipelago. Nevertheless, the joint work of EU Member States and the EU delegation managed to take more than 4,000 Europeans home. 12 Member States organised sweeper or repatriation flights (seven countries under the civil protection mechanism)
In an act of European solidarity, Germany has taken the lead so far in organising most of these flights from Thailand, which are supported by the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). The first two flights under this collaboration, from Phuket on 2 April and Bangkok on 3 April, brought home more than 500 EU citizens from 11 Member States. Further flights are planned over the coming week.
In addition to the flights organised by the German Embassy in Bangkok, the UCPM also supported repatriation flights from Thailand organised by the Czech Republic and Lithuania, with dozens of EU citizens from 10 Member States on board. Flights to the Czech Republic included more than 160 citizens of Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland.
On 18 March, the HR/VP had a call with the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs. Following this call, the local EU Delegation, together with different Member States consulates, organised a flight for EU citizens stranded in Vietnam.
Since mid-March, the EU Delegation to Vietnam is liaising with the authorities and is actively supporting and coordinating the member states in the organization of repatriation flights. So far, the EU Civilian Protection Mechanism (UCPM) has facilitated five repatriation flights operated by Austria, Czechia, Germany and Lithuania, for more than 1,500 EU travellers.
Nearly a million EU tourists annually visit the small islands of Cabo Verde. Many still came in March, and got "stranded". Only 4 EU Member States have embassies in Cabo Verde. The EU Delegation was contacted by hundreds of EU citizens needing help, and coordinated actions and info sharing with EU Member States' embassies also in Dakar and Lisbon. Luxembourg and Germany organised flights supported by the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. France, Portugal and Spain also mobilised flights. The EU Delegation received many grateful emails from returned citizens including British. A big thanks also to TUI who managed to operate most of their return flights in difficult circumstances.
On Saturday 4 April, a specially chartered Brussels Airlines flight repatriated 81 European nationals passing through Côte d'Ivoire, with many German and Belgian citizens on board as well as passengers from ten other EU countries.
With the support of the UEU Civil Protection Mechanism, a special one-way flight, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, left the Comoros for Paris, with 244 passengers on-board. Most of the EU citizens were French nationals along with a small group of other EU nationalities (Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain) as well as two British citizens, seven Canadians and some Comorian citizens holding French resident permits.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
Belgium organised a consular and humanitarian flight to DR Congo supported by the European Civil Protection Mechanism. Thanks to Belgian and European solidarity, this made it possible to transport critical material to the DRC to support the response to COVID19 and meet the continuing needs of our partners, in particular UNICEF, to deal with other epidemics. More than 200 nationals, including 28 Europeans of 10 nationalities, were able to benefit from this flight to return to their homes in Europe and spend Easter holidays with their loved ones.
On the 3rd of April, the Dutch Embassy in Accra, Ghana and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the lead to evacuate EU stranded tourists and non-residents from Ghana. Next to 60 Dutch citizens, 210 EU citizens could accordingly be accommodated on this flight back to Amsterdam. A combined flight from Yaoundé (Cameroon) via Accra (Ghana) to the EU (Brussels) organized by Belgium with some 250 EU citizens brought home, Belgians and many other EU nationals. Great cooperation between the Belgian Embassy in Ivory Coast and the two respective EU Delegation in Accra and Yaoundé bringing the number of stranded EU citizens in Ghana to zero!
Successful Ethiopian Airlines flight to Frankfurt via Addis was organised by the EU Delegation in Nairobi, with over 200 EU citizens and non-EU citizens (Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia,…). Some passengers had to overcome huge hurdles to make to Nairobi airport.
On Sunday evening 5 April, the EU Delegations to Sierra Leone and Liberia facilitated the successful repatriation to Brussels of nearly 250 citizens from the EU, but also from the Schengen area and from the UK.
In addition and thanks to the active coordination efforts of the EU Delegation with UNICEF, WHO and Brussels Airlines, the incoming flight also brought 18 tons of humanitarian aid to Freetown.
The COVID-19 outbreak caused the Gambian authorities to close Gambian airspace, and this is when the EU Delegation in Banjul started realising just how many stranded European citizens were in the country. Since, the EU Delegation has been working all hours to help get as many as possible airlifted back to European destinations, and facilitate their onward travel to their homes anywhere in Europe. As a result, more than 2,300 EU citizens return safely home from The Gambia.
In Uganda and Rwanda, EU Delegations organised an emergency flights going through Rwanda and Uganda to take EU citizens and others back home. The EU Delegation undertook actions to facilitate the landing of these flights.
Successful joint effort allowed bringing down the number of EU tourists in need of repatriation from more than 15.000 ten days ago to less than 400. The EU Delegation was closely involved in coordination, liaising with non-resident Member States, informing about commercial and charter flights (including one UCPM-funded), as well as about a special flight after the closure of the airport. The EU Delegation also supported logistically the repatriation by a private flight to Spain.
A flight was chartered by EUCAP to relocate some of its mission members to Europe, also including five other passengers. Given the exceptional period in Niger, with the closure of the airport, and the state of emergency, the EU Delegation and EUCAP, in close coordination with EU Member States, provided an opportunity for EU citizens to relocate to Europe so as to use the aircraft’s capacity to the maximum. Five EU citizens used this opportunity, paying for the expenses accordingly.
The EU Delegation to Nigeria coordinated together with Germany and Austria the flight Lagos-Munich (Lufthansa) on 2nd April and the flight Abuja-Vienna (Austrian Airlines) on the 3rd April. These two flights were supported by EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
In Seychelles, with the support of EU Civil Protection Mechanism, two flights were organised to Germany on 26 and 28 March and one flight to France on 31 March. As the flight on 31 March operated by the European Union and the French Government was the last one, the French Embassy and UK High Commission in Seychelles coordinated closely and organized the logistical aspect of the repatriation, while keeping European citizens informed on the situation through the European delegation network. At 20h50 local time, a charter plane left from Mahé to Paris with 156 tourists from 10 different countries (France, Germany, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland). The plane safely landed in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in the morning on 1 April. The EU Delegation based in Mauritius participated actively in this consular coordination.
Given the excellent cooperation among the EU Embassies together with the efforts of Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, 19 repatriation fights have taken place so far.
On Saturday, 4 April, more than 250 German and other stranded tourists in Uganda, as well as visitors, volunteers and vulnerable people from 20 different countries, flew safely out from Entebbe to Cologne on a repatriation flight organised by the German Foreign Office. The operation was supported by the Government of Uganda, several embassies and the EU delegation who provided consular support to EU citizens.
Latin America & the Caribbean
On Tuesday March 31st, Austria successfully led the repatriation of about 300 European citizens of 16 different European nationalities. They were transported by Austrian Airlines from Buenos Aires to Vienna.
Half of the 300 passengers were Austrians and the other half were Germans, Danish, Czechs, Swedish, Italians, Slovenians, Portuguese, Croatians, Estonians, Hungarians, Spaniards, Slovaks, Latvians and Polish.
On Saturday April 4th, France and Germany successfully led the repatriation of 755 European citizens.
For these flights, Austria, France and Germany requested the financial support provided by the European Union's Civil Protection Mechanism.
On 8 and 9 April, almost 450 Europeans who were stranded in Anguilla, Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago were able to return home on two Condor chartered flights to Frankfurt.
Thanks to EU led constructive cooperation with Member States and local authorities and despite difficulties such as total lockdown and only five resident EU Member States embassies accredited, 2 flights took off under the UCPM repatriating citizens with more than 20 nationalities. More UCPM flights are planned to repatriate the currently estimated remaining 500 EU stranded travellers.
In Jamaica, thanks to a very good cooperation between the EU Delegation, the EU Member States’ embassies and the local authorities, travel restrictions have been reduced. It allowed the repatriation on 28-29 March of most of the thousands EU travellers stranded in the country.
Between 23 March and 3 April, a total of ten repatriation flights from Cuba have been organized under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM). The repatriation flights have brought home over 1857 EU citizens and around 121 non-EU residents of more than 46 nationalities, including from 25 EU Member States.
Due to the global crisis caused by Covid 19, around 1600 Europeans lost the opportunity to go back to the continent from Guatemala. In response 3 EU Member States (Germany, France, Spain) organized 5 repatriation flights for tourists from their own countries and other European nations.
The EU Delegation coordinated the participation of citizens from countries of a EU nationality other than the three mentioned, which were allowed onboard: around 400 citizens from other EU countries as well as from Great Britain, Switzerland and Norway were benefited.Globally, 1,400 Europeans from more than twenty countries were successfully repatriated.
More than 500 European citizens from more than 20 countries were able to return home, thanks to a joint effort led by Germany and France that included the collaboration of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Nicaragua and the coordination with the diplomatic and consular representations of Member States of the EU in the region.
Many last minute changes of passengers made coordination labour intensive but prioritisation and constant communication and clear coordination proved to be recipe for success. The Delegation also received a citizen’s feedback who arrived safely at home stating, “in this world, hopefully, there are benevolent people. What a beautiful life’s gift. We will never forget what you have done”.
In El Salvador a flight with 180 stranded EU citizens left last week. Very good joint effort by Germany, of the EU Delegation and of the three EU Member States Embassies present in the country. There were many obstacles to overcome: the closure of the airport, the prohibition for anyone to move around the country, the strict lockdown measures. But negotiation with the President and Foreign Affairs made it possible. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated by Germany and gathered nationals from 16 different EU countries, UK and Israel. Another flight was arriving from Spain to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras carrying 475 passengers mostly from Spain but also other EU nationals.
On March 30th, a plane left Asunción to Frankfurt with approximately 340 european citizens who were stranded in Paraguay after commercial flights to Europe were cancelled and borders closed.
The efforts were widely covered by media and shared in social media of member states, highlighting that this was possible thanks to coordination and solidarity among EU Member States.
Concerted intervention through a letter by the President of the European Council and a call by the HR/VP to the Foreign Minister and intense local coordination of more than 30 countries concerned has paved the way for an “orderly” repatriation schedule: 24 repatriation flights from Lima (half of which UCPM-funded) are planned for some 8.700 tourists left. 7 have departed reducing the number of stranded tourists by 2.000.
Concerted efforts by Embassies and Honorary Consuls in collaboration with EU Delegations in Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, ensured that close to 500 stranded Europeans made it home safely.
A total of 670 Europeans stranded in Venezuela have safely returned to Europe in the last three weeks aboard two flights. Among the passengers were tourists, business travelers and citizens visiting relatives in different parts of the country. Their transfer to Caracas was also facilitated by the different diplomatic missions in coordination with the authorities, whose support was essential as they provided the necessary transport, airport and immigration permits.
The repatriation operations were possible thanks to the joint effort of all EU Member States´ Embassies and Consulates accredited in Venezuela with the EU Delegation playing a facilitating and supportive role both at consular and EU HoMS level.