Around 50 Irish citizens have been evacuated from Sudan, with more evacuations planned, Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin has said.
The Tanaiste and minister for foreign affairs said evacuations from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, to Djibouti were carried out with the assistance of the Spanish and French.
“About 50 Irish citizens were evacuated since yesterday from Khartoum to Djibouti with the support of France and Spain, and I want to take the opportunity to thank the French authorities and the Spanish for doing a remarkable job in terms of a wider co-ordinated evacuation of European Union citizens,” Mr Martin told RTE Radio One.
“The situation is fluid. We estimate there’s about 150-plus Irish citizens registered with our embassy in Nairobi – that can include dependents, so you’ll appreciate the situation is fluid.
“But 50 have been evacuated so far and more to come. A consular team for the Department of Foreign Affairs has been on the ground in Djibouti since yesterday.”
Mr Martin added: “The security situation is on everyone’s mind and obviously this has to be done safely and we have to protect all of our citizens.”
The Tanaiste urged Irish citizens who remain in Sudan to stay indoors, adding that further information will be communicated to them on airlift operations.
“This will take some days,” he said.
“I think we’re pleased with the initial outcome in the last 24 hours but it is something that’s very, very fluid, and bear in mind that the conflict is a ferocious one.
“And we also think of all those who are Sudanese civilians who are under huge threat and pressure, many dying, and there’s up to about 12 million Sudanese citizens who are, as we speak, in acute food (insecurity), a dire situation.”
“Our immediate response here is humanitarian and obviously we will support Irish families with Sudanese relatives and so on and we’ll see what can be done in that context,” he said.
The Tanaiste said Ireland will consult EU colleagues on how best to deploy the 12 Irish Defence Force members that have been sent to Djibouti.
“It very much depends on the advice we’re getting on the ground in terms of the degree to which we will deploy forces right into Khartoum, for example,” he said.
“So that’s something we would take advice from with our colleagues in the European Union, as to the best way to deploy resources.”
Mr Martin acknowledged that Ireland does not have the capacity to mount its own airlift operations and said he has taken action to address the issue by placing an order for a suitable aircraft.
He said in the future Ireland may look to join a consortium with other EU member states to develop joint strategic airlift capacity.
“We do need the capacity, I’m not arguing that,” he said.
“But we will always be working with European Union colleagues in situations like this. That’s what works best.”
Mr Martin also paid tribute to the work of Irish diplomat Aidan O’Hara, who is serving as EU ambassador in Sudan. He was attacked last week during a robbery at his residence in Khartoum.
“I think his professionalism, his resilience, I think has been quite an inspiration,” said Mr Martin.
“He kept going in the aftermath of that attack. He’s experienced and we appreciate the work that he has done.”