Fighting in Sudan: FDFA closes embassy and evacuates transferable embassy staff

Violent clashes in the heart of the capital, Khartoum, have brought the process of transition that Sudan has been pursuing over the past few years to an abrupt end. Switzerland is a long-standing supporter of the transition to democracy in this country in north-east Africa. But in view of the recent outbreak of violence, the safety of Swiss nationals and Swiss embassy staff is now the FDFA's top priority. The FDFA has set up an interdepartmental crisis cell.

Aerial view of Khartoum airport with several aircraft. Four aircraft have been destroyed by fire.

Destroyed aircraft at Khartoum airport: the precarious security situation in the Sudanese capital makes evacuation from the danger zone difficult. © Keystone

28.04.2023 – Around 50 people with links to Switzerland have left Sudan

According to the information available to the FDFA, around 50 people with links to Switzerland were able to leave Sudan between 24 and 27 April 2023 on transports organised by third countries (in particular France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom).

The FDFA supports Swiss citizens in Sudan on the basis of the Swiss Abroad Act and within the scope of its possibilities. As soon as concrete flight options from third countries are confirmed, the FDFA informs the registered persons to transmit their data in case they are willing to leave the country. Those who do so systematically receive all information on flights from Khartoum. They also receive a "laisser-passer" document from the FDFA.

In all this information, reference is made to individual responsibility and security risks. The decision to leave the country is an individual decision. There is no legal entitlement to consular protection.

Swiss Abroad Act

25.04.2023 – Four Swiss nationals leave Sudan with German and Dutch support

Four Swiss nationals were able to leave Sudan on Monday via flights organised by Germany and the Netherlands. Two of these people were returned to Germany and the other two to the Netherlands.

The FDFA, through its Crisis Management Centre (KMZ), is continuing its efforts to support Swiss nationals who have expressed their wish to leave Sudan.

25.04.2023 – Evacuated embassy staff returned to Switzerland

Early on Tuesday morning, six transferable members of the embassy staff and three accompanying persons, who had been flown out from Khartoum to Djibouti on Sunday, landed in Bern. They were welcomed there by the head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis. 

"It is a great relief to be here in Bern-Belp this morning and to welcome our transferable personnel back to Switzerland," Federal Councillor Cassis said after receiving the evacuees shortly after 6 am. The situation in Khartoum had deteriorated rapidly in recent days. He was therefore glad that the evacuation could be carried out successfully. An air force plane had picked up the evacuees in Djibouti last night. He thanked Ambassador Christian Winter for leading the evacuation of the embassy staff "with a cool head and strong nerves".

23.04.2023 – FDFA closes embassy and evacuates transferable embassy staff

The Embassy of Switzerland in Karthum has been closed since Sunday 23 April 2023. The transferable Embassy staff and their accompanying persons could be evacuated in cooperation with various partners and third countries.

They are well. Two people are on their way to Ethiopia, the rest were evacuated to Djibouti thanks to the support of France.

Support for Swiss nationals in Sudan is ongoing to the extent possible under these difficult circumstances. Switzerland itself does not carry out any organised departure for Swiss nationals in Sudan, but works closely with third countries and partners in this area wherever possible. Swiss nationals can contact the FDFA helpline. The travel advice for Sudan published on the Internet reflects the current assessment of the situation. The travel advice is reviewed on an ongoing basis and adapted in the event of changes to the assessment of the situation. Please also note the country-independent travel information on the same website.

21.04.2023 – The FDFA is considering options to evacuate Swiss nationals

The security situation in Sudan has taken a dramatic turn for the worse since Saturday, 17 April 2023. On that day, violent clashes broke out between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The fighting in the heart of the capital, Khartoum, is both the result and an expression of a struggle for power between the two generals who head the two armed factions.

The FDFA is very concerned about the outbreak of violence.  In a tweet on 18 April 2022, it called on the parties to the conflict to cease hostilities immediately and to enter into a dialogue with each other. 

But since then, the security situation has further deteriorated. International calls for a temporary ceasefire have also gone unheeded. The FDFA is therefore considering options to evacuate Swiss nationals and some of the staff of the Swiss embassy in Khartoum from the conflict zone. Their safety is the top priority in the operations currently being planned by the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre (KMZ).

Around 100 Swiss nationals registered with Swiss embassy in Sudan

Around 100 Swiss nationals are currently registered with the Swiss embassy in Khartoum. A further six Swiss nationals in Sudan have registered with Travel Admin, the FDFA's travel application. The FDFA is aware that several Swiss tourists are currently in Sudanese waters in the Red Sea. It is providing information to the individuals concerned and their families and offering them as much support as possible. So far, just under ten people have responded that they would be potentially interested in an organised departure, if such an option were available.

Given the precarious security situation, an evacuation would be a major challenge for the KMZ crisis cell, which has been working in Sudan since the outbreak of hostilities. "Certain security conditions must be met for such an evacuation to be feasible: a functioning airport in the greater Khartoum region, safe airspace, secure access routes with the necessary guarantees, and the support and commitments of the parties to the conflict," says Serge Bavaud, head of the KMZ. The Swiss embassy in Khartoum is continually in contact with other countries to exchange information and explore options for joint evacuation operations. But so far, no country has been able to get its citizens out of the danger zone.

The Swiss embassy in Khartoum has reduced its activities. The embassy continues to provide emergency assistance where possible, but is currently closed for visits and visa applications. The contingency plan in place for such cases has been activated, and security measures for staff on the ground are being continuously updated in cooperation with the KMZ in Bern.

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