In a written ministerial statement the Foreign Secretary said:
In light of the challenges posed by the evacuation of British Nationals from Libya, I announced on 23 February that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office would review its arrangements for leading the evacuations of British Nationals in a crisis. I said that the Review would consider the contingency arrangements that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and all Posts have in place, and the triggers and procedures for moving to a crisis footing and mounting civilian and military evacuation operations.
That Review is now complete and I am today placing a copy in the Library of the House. I have given instructions that its recommendations should be implemented in full by 31 December 2011.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, working closely with the Ministry of Defence and key allies and partners, evacuated over 800 British Nationals and over 1,000 other nationals from Libya in the space of a number of days. This was a significant achievement but the operation presented huge challenges because of the volatile and deteriorating situation in Libya. It stretched the FCO’s crisis response capability, taking place as it did against the backdrop of a wider and unfolding crisis in the Middle East and North Africa region that had already seen evacuations of British Nationals from Tunisia and Egypt. The earthquake in New Zealand, with British Nationals among the fatalities, added to the pressure.
Both I and the Prime Minister have told the House that there are lessons we would wish to learn from this evacuation and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already acted on a number of the recommendations in the Review, including: extending the range of suppliers who we can call on to provide charter flights to support any assisted departure or evacuation; increasing staffing in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Crisis Management Department; enhancing crisis training for staff; making ever greater use of both traditional and digital channels to communicate with British Nationals in a crisis; and developing a better crisis management command and control structure within the FCO.
Implementing the findings of the Review will help further strengthen the FCO’s crisis response function. The security and wellbeing of British Nationals is always our absolute priority in a crisis. The evacuation of British Nationals from Libya was the most complex FCO-led evacuation in recent years. Learning the lessons from recent events will ensure we are ready for the different circumstances the next crisis will present.