Sudan evacuations: How Saudi Arabia was prepared for the worst-case scenario

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Over 100,000 people have so far been forced to leave Sudan after violent fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15, according to the United Nations.

More than 5,600 people, including 239 Saudi citizens and about 5,390 foreign nationals from 102 different countries, were evacuated to Saudi Arabia in the days following the conflict.

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In what has been described as the “worst of worst-case scenarios” by the UN’s Special Representative to Sudan Volker Perthes, the Kingdom managed to step up and ensure that it could get as many people to safety as it could.

Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians of different nationalities after being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan to escape the conflicts, at Jeddah Sea Port, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 27, 2023. (Reuters)
Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians of different nationalities after being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan to escape the conflicts, at Jeddah Sea Port, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 27, 2023. (Reuters)

So, how was Saudi Arabia ready to accept so many evacuees in such short notice?

Procedures underway at various entry points

When authorities received notice that they would need to prepare for the large influx of people who would be coming into Saudi Arabia from Sudan through various entry points, they quickly enforced protocols to ensure that procedures would be implemented efficiently.

The King Faisal Naval Base and the Jeddah Islamic Port welcomed thousands of evacuees who fled the conflict by sea including citizens from the United States, Canada, Yemen, Indonesia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Syria, Turkey, and many more.

Civilians are seen onboard a Saudi commercial ship after being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan to escape the conflicts, as they arrive at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)
Civilians are seen onboard a Saudi commercial ship after being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan to escape the conflicts, as they arrive at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)

As each ship arrives at one of the seaports, marine officers in the Kingdom’s bases are told how many passengers are on board and what their nationalities are, according to an Al Arabiya report.

Once the information is confirmed, the ships are given permission to dock in pre-designated spots to allow the passengers to offboard safely.

Entry procedures smoothed out

At the Jeddah Islamic Port, more than a hundred counters have opened to welcome the incoming passengers, with passport control procedures taking less than 30 seconds to check each person.

Since the conflict erupted with little warning, many people did not expect to flee Sudan on such short notice. Saudi authorities say they are also prepared to handle situations where evacuees may not have valid entry visas or passports.

Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan, to escape the conflict, at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)
Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan, to escape the conflict, at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)

The General Directorate of Passports in Saudi Arabia confirmed that it was coordinating with embassies and missions to expedite the completion of their entry and exit procedures during evacuations, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

Designating hotels and accommodation

Once evacuees complete entry procedures, dozens of public buses have been allocated to transport them to hotels that are prepared to house them temporarily until all procedures are done and they could return to their home countries.

Global praise

The Kingdom’s efficient evacuations have drawn regional and global praise.

From Iran to the Netherlands, ambassadors and global leaders have complimented Saudi Arabia’s government on its efforts to evacuate people from all over the world.

British Consul-General Cecille El Beleidi in Jeddah last month thanked Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the Saudi government's role in the evacuation of British nationals from Sudan.

For his part, the US Consul General in Jeddah, Faris Asad, praised the Kingdom's humanitarian efforts, while thanking all institutions in the Kingdom for their hospitality and efforts in facilitating US nationals' procedures from their departure until their arrival at Saudi territory.

Abdul Razzaq Al-Manfi, Libyan Consul in Jeddah, also commended the Kingdom's efforts, as did Maya Hadi, the Deputy Consul of Iraq.

Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan, to escape the conflict, at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)
Saudi Navy personnel assist civilians being evacuated by Saudi Arabia from Sudan, to escape the conflict, at Jeddah Sea Port, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 26, 2023. (Reuters)

“Saudi Arabia is continuing to play a critical role in alleviating the crisis in Sudan by evacuating dozens of foreign nationals today including citizens from the US, UK, Sweden, Italy, Turkey, Iraq, the Netherlands and Qatar, among others,” said Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington.

The violence has resulted in more than 500 deaths and displaced thousands of people.

Read more:

UN says fighting in Sudan displaced over 430,000 people

Hundreds more evacuees rescued from battle-scarred Sudan arrive in Saudi Arabia

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