By Chinedu Eze
The United Kingdom’s Mission in Nigeria has announced that it has concluded plans to evacuate British nationals, who wish to leave the country over the COVID19 pandemic.
The Mission said it would commence the evacuation exercise from April 18 to April 20, 2020, adding that more flights might follow if the already scheduled flight did not airlift those intended to leave Nigeria.
In its travel advisory, the UK Mission said that its nationals would be evacuated from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
It also stated that to be eligible for all flights, primary residence has to be in the UK and that it would prioritise helping the most vulnerable return and those who have an underlying medical condition placing them at greater risk of serious illness if they contact COVID-19.
Intending evacuees are expected to pay for their seats.
The UK Mission also noted that the federal government of Nigeria had assured that people who exceeded their authorised visa expiry date as a result of travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 would not be penalised as over-stayers when they depart.
“There are currently no commercial options available to return to the UK from Nigeria. All airports in Nigeria are closed to all international commercial flights until 23 April. We know this is concerning for British people trying to leave Nigeria. The UK government has been working closely with airlines and has now secured agreement for charter flights to start from Nigeria to the UK, from both Abuja and Lagos.
“The Nigerian authorities have told us that people who exceed their authorised visa stays as a result of travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 will not be penalised as over-stayers when they depart.
“Our first flights are expected to leave both Lagos and Abuja on Saturday 18 April with a further flight from Lagos on 20 April. You will not be able to pick your departure date – the online booking process will generate it automatically. More flights will follow, depending on demand. Anyone flying back to the UK on an HMG chartered flight will need to pay for their own ticket. To be eligible for a flight your primary residence has to be in the UK.
“We will prioritise helping the most vulnerable return, so those who have an underlying medical condition placing them at greater risk of serious illness if they contact COVID-19. If you believe you are in this category and have not already registered your interest in return flights, please do so by emailing the mailbox above, giving details and evidence of your vulnerability.
“We are working with a company called Central Travel Management (CTM), who will manage the booking and ticketing process and will actively manage the passenger list to ensure this prioritisation.
“We are coordinating with the Federal and State government to help ensure that those of you who are outside of Abuja and Lagos can get to the airports despite the lockdown,” the UK Mission stated.
So far, over 2000 foreign nationals from the US, Canada, Germany, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt South Africa and France have been evacuated from their countries.
The Nigerian Mission in the UK has also received over 140 applications from Nigerians resident in Britain who are interested in being evacuated.