Algerian hostage crisis prompts call to educate engineers

24 January 2013
By Edward Gent
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IET Director of Policy Dr Tony Whitehead welcomes moves to educate engineers of the dangers of working abroad

IET Director of Policy Dr Tony Whitehead welcomes moves to educate engineers of the dangers of working abroad

The Institution of Engineering and Technology has welcomed calls to educate engineers of the dangers of working overseas.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah, a fellow of the IET, has called on the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary to work with professional bodies to help both individuals and companies make informed choices about working abroad following the hostage crisis in Algeria earlier this month.

IET Director of Policy Dr Tony Whitehead welcomed the opportunity saying the organisation would be keen to help increase awareness of the issues.

He said: “We welcome the fact that Chi Onwurah has raised this important issue. The IET would be delighted to work with the Government and the professional engineering community to increase awareness of the potential dangers of such situations and sources of reliable information – like the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and local British Consular and Embassy authorities – so that companies and their employees are able to make well informed decisions in difficult circumstances.”

Ms Onwurah, member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Shadow Minster for Innovation & Science, made the call during a debate on Monday afternoon on last week’s Algerian terrorist attack.

She said: “Many of those so tragically caught up in the terrorist attacks in Algeria are engineers, who, as I know from my own engineering career, are often called on to work abroad without appropriate security information, particularly if they work for smaller companies or are contractors.

“The Prime Minister said that he would be in contact with larger oil companies. May I urge him and the Foreign Secretary to work with the professional bodies concerned, such as my own body, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, to ensure that individuals as well as companies can make informed choices for themselves?”

Six UK nationals, four of whom have been named, are thought to have died in the terrorist attack at the In Amenas plant – the remote desert facility part-operated by BP.

Responding to Ms Onwurah, David Cameron said: “The honourable lady makes an extremely good point, and Foreign Office ministers were listening carefully.

“Some 250 to 300 British nationals are working in oil and gas installations in Algeria. I encourage the companies and, in the case of subcontractors, perhaps the individuals as well, to make sure that they contact the consular authorities, so that we know who is in the country and what their roles are. It would help enormously if they did.”

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