Getting UK nationals out of the country is priority, minister says

Citizens of European countries are seen outside the Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, Niger, on 2 August

Some other European countries have already started evacuation flights from Niger

Getting British nationals out of Niger and to safety is a priority of the UK government, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said.

Violence has broken out in the west African country following last week’s military coup.

France and Italy have already started evacuating their citizens on flights from Niger.

Labour has urged the government to do the same, but no plans for Britons have yet been announced.

The government has so far advised British nationals to register their whereabouts and stay indoors.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said: “The situation in Niger is deteriorating rapidly following the recent coup, while the closure of Niger’s airspace is preventing British nationals from leaving by their own means.

“British nationals who want to get out of the country should now be supported by the government to evacuate.”

Mr Cleverly, who is currently in Nigeria as part of a three-country tour of Africa, said: “The UK government’s priority remains the safety of British nationals and helping them get out of the country to safety.”

The coup has prompted demonstrations against France, the former colonial power in Niger, with the French embassy coming under attack.

Early on Wednesday 262 people arrived in Paris from Niger, while Italy has also organised a flight, which arrived in Rome with 87 evacuees.

The plane was carrying 36 Italians, 21 Americans and one Briton, according to Reuters news agency.

Niger, which is rich in uranium, has been a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist extremism in the Sahel region. Both France and the US have military bases there.

There are an estimated 600 French nationals and 500 Italians – mostly in the military – in Niger but there are believed to be fewer than 100 British nationals. The Foreign Office is also advising any other Britons against travelling to Niger.

German citizens in Niger – who are thought to number fewer than 100 – have been urged to leave the country aboard planes organised by France, while the Spanish government said it was preparing to evacuate around 70 of its citizens.

President Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s first democratically elected leader since the country’s independence in 1960, was detained by his presidential guards last week.

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has said it would use force unless the president was released and reinstated within a week.

But juntas in neighbouring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, also former French colonies, warned any forcible intervention would be seen as a declaration of war.

There are concerns Niger’s new leadership could now move away from its Western allies and closer to Russia, like Burkina Faso and Mali, which have both pivoted towards Moscow since their own military coups.

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