Duty of Care Requirements: Current Situation & Lessons Learned After Recent Evacuation in Sudan

by Miguel Angel Cumplido

During recent years, COVID-19 pandemic caused a world-wide crisis and economical shock for the great global shutdown. A few days ago, May 05, World Health Organization (WHO) decreased the COVID-19 pandemic emergency level, apparently for the suscess controlling the global health crisis. However, the economical shock generated by COVID-19 pandemic will persist for a relevant time and also causing significant changes for companies operations. For business environment, the economical shock proving that closed borders are negative for the global economy and companies. And for corporate international security environment, the pandemic arised new challenges, questioning how to implement the Duty of Care requirements in order to provide travel security support to the employees, very often driven by an expansive employee` desire requesting to the corporate travel security programs more efectiveness, providing security support on the ground, sometimes based on the unexpected matters, or how to delivery an effective security support to new digital nomad employees hosted in very different locations (usually selected directly by them with very limited (or no) participation of the employer in the making-decision process to select the location but authorizing this relocation.

In 2023 many countries are extending a warm welcome to affluent business travelers, expatriates and including digital nomad options (including options with cross-border relocation). For current year in terms of global mobility the expectations are:

  • Increase of business travellers.
  • Resurgence in ‘traditional’ assignments to an overseas posts.
  • Increased remote working driven by digital nomad options.

Then, the companies need to accommodate their ‘traditional/remote travel security policies and programs` to the new current demanding security risk factors and dynamics generated for the patterns of the global mobility. Intenational security forecast for the next months (an probably years) drawing different predictions, but all of them are agree on define a turbulent security scenario for the travel security. Probably most recent and clear example is the events happening in Sudan and the evacuation operation executed by different Governments. The expanded security desires of the citizens generated a wave of critics against Westerner governments (for example the cae of U.S.). While during last years U.S. government (as other countries) issued clear travel advisories warning “not to journey to Sudan” and advising “if U.S. citizens do, the US government may not be able to provide help in a crisis”; the number of U.S. citizens located in Sudan in late-April reached almost 16,000, requesting a most part of them be evacuated to the U.S. government.

For the travel security professionals, this situation is relevant because put on the desk again the debate of the reduced travel security awareness of the business travelers and expatriates and/or also the unreliable travel security programs elaborated by some business corporations. And it is that, there is no legal obligation for any government to evacuate its nationals from a country, even if erupted a war situation sceneario or a severe security incident happen. Governments are resposible to evacuate their governamental staff, like any employer. Evacuation operations for citizens are based on the principle of political opportunity, Governments are responsable provide assessment and facilitations but there is not a legal right to be evacuated that a citizen can formally request. Any citizen travels internationally at their own risk. However, when someone travels for business reasons, resulted applicable the Duty of Care requirements, requiring to business corporations (like employers) implement effective travel security programs to protect to the business traveler or expatriate (including the evacuation if the security situation requested).

In the business envirotment, Duty of Care requires to the:

  • International traveler/expatriate: gain a high-level of security awareness about the destination, participating proactively in the mandatory security briefings and trainings delivered by the company or employer. Also follow and put in practice the security recommendations/rules provided.
  • Companies: elaborate and implement realiable travel security programs capable to provide effective security support to the traveler/expatriate on the ground.

Sometimes the travel security profesionals defined travel security programs based on desk-analysis, for example realizing security risk assessment based on fragmented information (using only open sources o not checking the updated real context on the ground, or non-monitoring adequately the security threats that affect to the international travelers and expatriates). Sometimes the international security programs have no enough capababilities to provide effective direct support to the international traveler or expatriate in the location where is located the international traveler or expatriate. Sometimes the internatioal security programs are not tested or tested only using desk- exercises. All this factors are the main vulnerabilities to execute correctly an evacuation operation. Probably this kind of operations are the most critical that can be executed in the business international security environtment. As several courth rules, with international relevance, prove that a negligent travel security program generates significant legal liabilities for the employer.

Recent events in Sudan are a reminder for international security professionals about the Duty of Care:

  • Clealy assign to the companies the responsability to provide adequate protection to the international travelers and expatriaties, including in the case of a country evacuation for war or severe security incidents. Governments are not legally responsable to evacuate to their nationals, the governamental evacuations are political measures.
  • Implemement international travel security programs charateized by:
    • Customer oriented: directed to delivery timely and pro-active support to international business travelers and expatriates, including in the approved areas where they are located according with the verified security environtment in developing. According with the Duty of Care requiremets of avoid/mitigate the security threats over employees and minimze the impact on them when suffer a security incident. Including the areas where are hosted the cross-boder nomad digital, when this relocation is approved by the employer.
    • Effective: destined to strategical and tactical execution of security operations to protect the international business travelers and expatriates in the dfferent security scenarios (since most permisse to most risky), non-transferring to third entities the resposability to protect them based on wrong perceptions or misjudgments non- aligned with the Duty of Care requirements.
    • Realible: capable to faciliate a tested and high level of security performance on the response, also coordinated and interoperable with the programs elaborated by other actors and entities, including with Governamental responses. According with the Duty of Care requirements to prioritize the most relevant matters through the cooperation and coordination.


  • K. Campbell, Sudan and the Failures to Heed Advice, Global Risk & Intelligence, May 05, 2023.
  • Shannon K. Crawford, White House warns American citizens not to count on evacuation from Sudan, ABC News, April 22, 2023
  • Jennifer Hansler, US is making preparations but has not yet made a decision on evacuating personnel from Sudan, CNN, April 21, 2023
  • Johaness Laaksonen, Employer`s legal duty of care and security risk management in high-risk environtments. A theory-based case study of the gross negligence of Norwegian Refugee Council in 2015, Laurea, 2018.
  • Lisbeth Claus, Duty of Care of Employers for Protecting International Assignees, their Dependents, and International Business Travelers, Willamette University, 2011
  • Henley, Global Mobility Report 2023 Q1, April