Security evacuation of expats from Hong Kong amid political unrest

After 10-weeks of unrest in Hong Kong, as Chinese soldiers assembled at the border and the security situation in the country deteriorated - on August 11th - Traveller Assist was tasked by a London-based insurance underwriter to draw up a contingency plan to evacuate up to 180 foreign workers and students from five Hong Kong districts, if required.

Within 12-hours of receiving the request, as news broke that all departing flights from the international airport had been cancelled and all arriving flights had been diverted, Traveller Assist made the decision to deploy a crisis consultant to Hong Kong to assess the situation on the ground, in the hope that by the time he arrived, normal operations at the airport would resume.

Traveller Assist retains a network of local and expat staff around the world who can be called upon at a moments notice to deploy in times of natural disasters and political unrest.

Our crisis consultant arrived from Manila within seven-hours, and was met at a pre-arranged location at the airport by two local ground-agents amid violent protests. He was immediately informed that upon news of the airport re-opening, the underwriter had made the decision to evacuate all of the students and non-essential staff as soon as possible, which equated to 159 people.

At this point, Traveller Assist had located 131 of the 159 people who were ordered to evacuate. As with any travel risk management situation, having a security alert and notification system in place is only effective if the traveller reads the messages. In this case, 28 people did not. Then came the task of physically locating each missing person.

Due to cancelled and delayed flights and the fact that citizens, expats and tourists wanted to leave the country, a vast majority of seats on commercial flights were sold out.

Craig Wright, Director of Special Risks said, “This limited our options to chartering a plane in the hope that further airport closures would not affect this plan.” Wright added, “Plan B was to charter a boat from Hong Kong to Macau and then flying the expat students and staff on to Manila.”

In the early hours of the morning of August 15th, Traveller Assist successfully coordinated the evacuation of 159 people from Hong Kong to Manila on a chartered flight that also required booking onward commercial flight tickets for all passengers due to visa regulations in the Philippines.

Danny Kaine, Head of Assistance said, “A security evacuation on this scale has a lot of moving parts and no matter how well it is planned, something will always change. A roadblock on the planned route to the airport. A lost passport. A student who was diagnosed with measles. All of which happened on this operation, but we are trained and experienced to deal with the unexpected as and when it happens.”

At the time of writing (August 18th, 2019), Traveller Assist has assisted 173 expats and students in leaving Hong Kong, and currently has two crisis-consultants and two local ground-agents in the country who are working with clients to assess and monitor the situation; and provide immediate medical or security assistance and evacuation if required.

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Traveller Assist is a medical and security assistance provider that specialises in complex situations, and regions around the world.

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