By Mayeen Mohammedi
When hostilities broke out in Sudan in April, Department of State employees in Saudi Arabia at Consulate General Jeddah stepped up to assist affected colleagues at the neighboring post. ConGen Jeddah’s initial focus was on offering support for staff at post who were affected. American Citizens Services Jeddah then learned that a group of American scuba divers was seeking to exit from Sudan across the Red Sea to Jeddah, shifting post’s response toward an evacuation effort. This incident started a new chapter: helping people seeking exit across the Red Sea.
When the situation continued to deteriorate in Khartoum, word spread about maritime travel options to Jeddah, and the Saudi government began transporting passengers on naval vessels. At first, few Americans arrived on these ships. Things changed once larger ferry boats began transporting evacuees from Port Sudan and Suakin, and as the United States facilitated two passages to evacuate several hundred U.S. citizens using U.S. Navy ships.
Within two weeks, the consulate—with support from Mission Saudi Arabia, the Department of Defense (DOD), and other posts around the world—facilitated the evacuation of more than 1,000 U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as well as several hundred family members, all arriving on 24 separate vessel crossings. The entire team worked 24/7, including during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, to assist evacuees with departure from Sudan, arrival in Jeddah, and onward travel. Staff met evacuees at seaports and airports, helped them through Saudi immigration, and offered consular services as evacuees organized their onward travel. The team also aided Embassy Khartoum’s locally employed staff members who evacuated to Jeddah.
The interagency team from Mission Saudi Arabia and posts worldwide, including DOD colleagues, rose to the challenge, demonstrating resilience and dedication to service during Sudan evacuation operations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken extended his appreciation to the Mission Saudi Arabia team and temporary duty personnel for their Sudan evacuation efforts during a visit to Jeddah and Riyadh in June. Post subsequently worked with the Bureau of Medical Services’ Employee Consultation Services to prioritize the health and well-being of all staff involved in the Sudan evacuation.
Mayeen Mohammedi is a Rangel fellow who interned in the public affairs section at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah.