I wish to update the House on the efforts the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has made to help British nationals depart Libya.
As the Prime Minister reported to this House on Monday 28 February 2011, more than 600 British nationals have been evacuated from Libya on UK-provided flights and ships. Many others have been able to leave Libya through a variety of other means. I am pleased to report that since then 11 British nationals were able to leave Benghazi on board HMS York on 2 March. We have also assisted in the evacuation of 43 different nationalities, including French, US, Canadian and New Zealand citizens.
Six chartered aircraft, organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and an RAF C130 Hercules flight have brought out from Tripoli airport around 400 British nationals and 360 EU and other nationals.
HMS Cumberland made two voyages to Benghazi and evacuated 119 UK citizens and 303 EU and other citizens. HMS York has made one voyage to Benghazi and has evacuated another 11 UK and 32 EU and other citizens.
On Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 February RAF C130s were deployed in order to evacuate UK oil workers from the desert, and 95 British nationals and around 270 foreign nationals were evacuated.
Only a very few UK citizens remain in Libya who have asked to be evacuated. We are helping them to access the various evacuation options which remain. There are a number of other UK citizens who currently have chosen to stay in Libya. A significant number of these are dual nationals. Clearly these figures can change. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that those who wish to leave can do so.
For those who are evacuated to Valletta, in Malta, the FCO has arranged, for those who want it, onward transfer to the UK by charter flight or using existing commercial means.
All of these evacuations have been supported by staff reinforcements from within the region, as well as five rapid deployment teams.
The operations of the UK embassy were temporarily suspended on Saturday 26 February and since then our representation has been undertaken by the Turkish embassy in Tripoli. A locally employed UK vice-consul is currently working with them.
I would like to put on record the UK’s appreciation for all the support provided by our allies and partners during this difficult time and in particular the Turkish Government and the Government and people of Malta.
This has been a consular crisis effort on an unprecedented scale. We have worked tirelessly to overcome the physical and logistical difficulties of co-ordinating the evacuation of hundreds of British nationals from a vast country and after the breakdown of law and order. Working with colleagues from across Government, most notably the Ministry of Defence and the United Kingdom Border Agency, FCO staff have been working round the clock to help bring home British nationals in Libya.
In total, since 21 February, more than 350 FCO staff have joined the consular and political efforts, including over 50 who were deployed to Libya or Valletta to work alongside our embassy teams. Of these, the majority have stepped forward as volunteers to ramp up our overall capacity and support their colleagues. They have done so above and beyond their normal day jobs.
As events in the middle east continue to develop, I wish to pay tribute to the determination and commitment of FCO staff to assist British citizens wherever they are in the world.
So long as British nationals remain in Libya, Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff stand ready to assist them.