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China wins praise for evacuating foreigners

Zhang Yunbi
Updated: Apr 7,2015 7:42 AM     China Daily

Foreign nationals wait to board the Linyi at Aden prior to the frigate’s departure for Djibouti. A total of 225 people from 10 countries were successfully evacuated from Yemen aboard the Chinese warship on April 2.[Photo by Pan Siwei/Xinhua]

China has joined the elite humanitarian club of countries that are able to bring non-nationals to safety from danger zones, after evacuating hundreds of Chinese citizens and foreigners from war-torn Yemen.

The People’s Liberation Army navy won global plaudits by conducting four major evacuations from two ports against a backdrop of gunfire and explosions.

Any single evacuation operation requires a considerable amount of planning and coordination. However, the obstacles faced when taking 279 foreigners from 15 countries to safety increase dramatically, not least because of the language difficulties.

To do it just days after you have evacuated your own nationals makes it all the more remarkable, observers said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said in a statement on its website on April 2 that 10 foreign governments-Pakistan, Ethiopia, Singapore, Italy, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Britain, Canada and Yemen-had requested China’s help.

Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was the first time China had carried out a specific evacuation of foreign nationals from a danger zone.

The first mission took place in the southern port city of Aden on March 29 when 122 Chinese people were evacuated. Another mission involving 449 Chinese people was carried out from the Red Sea port of Hodeidah on March 30, and a third mission, evacuating 225 foreigners from 10 countries from Aden, took place on April 2.

On April 6, the frigate Linyi embarked on the fourth mission. The ministry said it carried the last group of 24 Chinese nationals who wished to be evacuated from the country from Hodeidah to Djibouti. At the request of the Sri Lankan government, the vessel also carried 45 Sri Lankans.

Hua said the Chinese embassy and consulate general in Yemen “are temporarily closed” in light of the worsening security situation, and all the remaining diplomatic staff in the country boarded the Linyi.

Yemen has been devastated by a brutal civil war, and the situation became even more critical on March 26 when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on the Houthi rebels with the participation of other Gulf states. Getting non-Yemenis out of Aden, near the entrance to the Red Sea, became a matter of extreme urgency.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told China Daily that the situation in Yemen was “particularly tragic as it affects everyone there”.

The country has a large displaced population from Africa, in particular Somalia, because of its strategic position, Edwards said.

Mudassir Waseem, a 13-year-old Pakistani, told Xinhua News Agency on board the Linyi, the vessel that evacuated the foreign nationals, that he could not restrain his delight at the thought of returning home.

Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif told Chinese reporters in Islamabad, “We are really, really grateful to our Chinese brothers.”

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 3 expressed its gratitude to China for providing assistance in evacuating four Polish residents from Aden.

Timeline

・ March 26

The PLA navy missile frigates Linyi and Weifang and the supply ship Weishanhu, which were carrying out escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters, are ordered to head toward the port city of Aden in Yemen.

・March 29

The first group of 122 Chinese citizens, along with two foreign employees of Chinese enterprises, board the Linyi at Aden and arrive safely at the Port of Djibouti after eight hours at sea.

・ March 30

The second group of 449 Chinese citizens, together with six foreign employees of Chinese enterprises, board the Weifang and the Weishanhu at Hodeidah. They arrive at Djibouti after sailing for 15 hours.

・ March 31

The Chinese citizens begin to arrive in Beijing aboard civilian flights.

・ April 2

The Linyi, carrying 225 nationals from 10 countries, departs from Aden and arrives safely in Djibouti.

・ April 6

The last group of 24 Chinese nationals and 45 Sri Lankans board the Linyi at Hodeidah bound for Djibouti.

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