RSA’s customers were among the first to be successfully extricated after the airport was closed and a military curfew was invoked, potentially stranding personnel in a region posing significant physical risk and arrest if they ventured out onto the streets.
Toni LePine, Accident & Health and Financial Risks Leader at RSA Insurance, said that RSA had decided to initiate the successful evacuation immediately based on the advice of partner Drum Cussac, who were in constant contact and had assessed the situation on the ground.
She said: “We were notified that there were 20 members of staff in total who were living and working out there and because they were made up of a mixture of nationalities it would not have been safe or appropriate to wait for guidance from each of their own governments regarding whether or not to leave.”
With the help of partners Drum Cussac and Capita Global Assistance (Formerly First Assist), RSA swiftly put an emergency action plan in place – first assessing the safety of all personnel, then reviewing local transport facilities, before compiling a full manifest so that flights could be booked or chartered as necessary.
By December 18, RSA and its partners had secured an aircraft at the airport to carry clients from Juba to safety in Kampala. From there, Capita Global Assistance coordinated their onward travel to their home countries.
Toni LePine said: “Thanks to our links and expertise - especially with our partner organisations, Drum Cussac and Capita Global Assistance – we were able to act swiftly and help our customers to remove their staff safely and quickly.
“RSA’s tried and tested procedures for incidents of this type mean that we can reassure customers and their staff that they can continue to work in difficult regions of the world, knowing that if and when they need to call on us we will be there immediately to help.”
There were a number of challenges involved in the evacuation. 16 passengers were flown out immediately, with four choosing to remain in the country initially. One potential evacuee was a Somali child with no passport information, and his parents elected to stay on the capital, Juba, while the paperwork was sorted out.
Two other personnel were flown out separately as they were based outside Juba and needed to get to the airport. On December 19, evacuation was made more complicated because Juba airport was temporarily closed. As a consequence, one male staff member flying from Arwil to Juba was diverted to Wau until the airport reopened.
Toni LePine said: “Throughout the process we have remained in close contact with Drum Cussac and Capita Global Assistance, and checked customers were kept fully informed. When you are evacuating personnel from areas where there is violence and civil unrest, the situation can deteriorate rapidly and it is important to check continually that staff are safe and to keep aware of what is a fluid situation.” She added: “I am delighted to say that we have successfully evacuated all members of staff from what was a potentially dangerous and difficult situation.”