The UK Government has pledged up to £75 million to repatriate stranded UK citizens.
The British Mission in Nigeria says it is already receiving expression of interest from its nationals in Nigeria who want to return to the United Kingdom, but priority would be given to citizens on short-term visits outside the UK and those with underlying health conditions.
Airports in Nigeria are closed to international flights but the mission is working intensively at evacuation flights, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said in a video released on Monday
She said, “I fully understand the anxiety that COVID-19 is causing UK citizens here in Nigeria. It is my top priority to support British citizens here.”
“We fully understand that travelling back to the UK is not feasible now for our citizens. That is because the government of Nigeria, in its own response to contain COVID-19, closed Abuja and Lagos airports to international flights from the 23rd of March for one month.”
“The government of Nigeria has, however, made exemptions for humanitarians and for evacuation flights. We are working intensively to look at those options for evacuation flights.”
“Our top priority at the moment is those who are normally resident in the UK but are here, temporarily visiting Nigeria. Our second top priority is those with underlying health conditions and other vulnerabilities.
“We have not of course forgotten those who are resident in Nigeria and we will be returning shortly with further advice but for now, our top priority is those who are visiting temporarily and those with underlying health conditions.”
Also, the UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, in a statement on Monday said the UK Government is in talks with governments and airlines to evacuate Britons from around the world.
He said the UK Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan Airways to work with British Airways for this purpose.
Raab said, “This is a worrying time for many British citizens travelling abroad. We’ve already worked with airlines and governments to enable hundreds of thousands to return home on commercial flights.
“Where commercial routes do not exist, the government will provide up to £75 million financial support to enable special charter flights – operated by the airlines above and others – to fly to priority countries to bring back UK residents.
“Charter flights are already up and running to Ghana and Tunisia. We will add more countries this week with the aim of bringing people back from countries such as India and South Africa where large numbers of British travellers are stuck and commercial routes are completely suspended.
“We are negotiating intensely with countries around the world to secure permissions for return flights where airspace has been closed.”