What is the Rapid Deployment Consular Support Team (SCOT)?
To help Dutch nationals worldwide in crisis situations or at major public events, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a team of specialists – the Rapid Deployment Consular Support Team (in Dutch: SCOT).
Under normal circumstances, if you are a Dutch national abroad and need help of some kind, the Dutch mission (embassy or consulate) in that country is always ready to assist. But occasionally, there may be so many Dutch nationals needing help at one time that the embassy or consulate itself needs extra support. That’s what the Rapid Deployment Consular Support Team (SCOT) is for.
What does the Rapid Deployment Consular Support Team do?
SCOT is a team of people from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who can be quickly sent abroad to anywhere a large number of Dutch nationals need help. In such situations, SCOT members assist the embassy or consulate staff. Their duties can include helping Dutch nationals who have lost their passports or making sure a person gets home safely during a crisis situation. SCOT members also work with the local authorities and emergency services. During evacuations, they work closely with the Ministry of Defence as well.
When are SCOT teams deployed?
Typically, SCOT members are sent abroad to help during a natural disaster, conflict or terrorist attack, but also at major public events. Sometimes there are so many Dutch nationals in a given country that the embassy needs extra assistance to respond effectively. So the foreign ministry also dispatches SCOT members proactively to situations where large crowds are expected. And SCOT members are regularly put on stand-by when there’s a security threat or conflict somewhere in the world. If there’s no Dutch embassy or consulate in particular country, the SCOT may also be sent to assist the honorary consul.
What sort of people are in the SCOT teams?
SCOT members are Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff who have volunteered to for the task. It’s not part of their regular job but they can be called on at any moment, either to be on stand-by or to be deployed immediately. This means that SCOT members have to be very flexible. Every two years they undergo a medical examination, and all their vaccinations are always up to date.
At home their bags are always packed for a quick departure. In an emergency they can be deployed anywhere in the world within 24 hours.
SCOT members usually speak several languages. They know exactly how to support embassy staff, and how to help Dutch nationals in difficult situations. Their broad training includes giving first aid, performing under pressure and taking part in exercises with the Ministry of Defence. A SCOT member is prepared for all kinds of situations.
The work of SCOT in practice
Read more about SCOT members and their experiences. From the 2010 plane crash in Libya, to the earthquakes in Türkiye and the UEFA Super Cup football matches in Ukraine and Poland:
Hind Ribeiro-Bidaoui (Senior Adviser at the Academy for International Relations, Human Resources Department) will never forget her first SCOT mission. On 12 May 2010 a plane crashed in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Of the 104 passengers on board, 103 were killed, including 71 Dutch nationals. The sole survivor was a young Dutch boy.
‘The morning of the crash I got a phone call asking me to go straight to Libya,’ Hind relates. ‘I travelled with members of the boy’s family, the Dutch press and the National Forensic Investigation Team that had to identify the Dutch victims. The survivor was in hospital in Tripoli. One of the reasons I was selected was that I speak Arabic. That way, I could act as a translator and support the family.’
After the child was flown back to the Netherlands, Hind stayed on in Tripoli to help the embassy staff support the next-of-kin of Dutch nationals who had died. She also helped the forensic team in the mortuary, worked with other embassies and investigators from other countries, and maintained contact with local authorities. At the time, Colonel Gaddafi was still in power.
‘You see and hear terrible things and you’re confronted with so much sorrow. You have to be able to cope with all that. But in spite of all the emotions, you’ve got a job to do. I had that drive and adrenaline. I’m still in contact with the survivor’s family. And every year on 12 May I pause to remember the crash, and I light a candle for all the victims.’
Since then, Hind has taken part in many SCOT missions in North Africa and the Middle East.
Johan van de Hoef (3W WorldWide Working) compares SCOT to the volunteer fire service. ‘You do a lot of training for this work, although you hope you’ll never need to use it.’ Still, when fire breaks out somewhere, it needs putting out. ‘As a SCOT member you’ve got to be able to leave at a moment’s notice,’ says Johan. ‘And when you arrive, you need to quickly take stock of the situation, the resources you’ve got and the risks you face.’
Following the severe earthquakes in Türkiye on 6 February 2023, Johan got a call to assist the Dutch embassy in the capital, Ankara. This included helping people who wanted to return to the Netherlands. And in 2021 Johan evacuated Dutch nationals from Afghanistan via Doha. ‘My task was to look after people coming from Afghanistan. I worked with the Qatari government to ensure that they got accommodation and medical care, that their travel documents were in order and that they could fly back to the Netherlands safely.
‘In Doha I met people at the airport and took them to the temporary shelter. Sometimes they didn’t arrive until late in the evening. That meant I was working through much of the night because the next group was due to arrive at 6.00 the following morning. You listen to everyone’s stories and look after Dutch people who have experienced terrible things. As a SCOT member you have to be able to cope when there’s a lot of emotion and unexpected things are happening. But one thing’s certain: you’re making a significant difference in someone’s life.’
Evelien Boersma (deputy head of mission at the embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo) explains that being on stand-by is an important part of the job. ‘As a SCOT member you need to be stress-resistant and very flexible. You’re ready to depart at any time, your bag is packed, your visa is in order and your vaccinations are up-to-date. But even then, you may not be deployed after all – as often happens.’
However, one occasion when Evelien was deployed was during the UEFA Euro football championship in 2012. With three SCOT colleagues she helped Dutch nationals in Kharkiv, Ukraine. ‘Some had lost their passports, and others were in hospital or had had traffic accidents. As a SCOT member you’re there to help all those Dutch nationals and to make sure that they get home again safe and sound. As part of my job, I also helped supporters to find their way back to the airport.’ And in several cases, the rapid deployment team more than lived up to its name:
‘During the UEFA Cup football championship, we had excellent contact with the police: not only the Ukrainians, but also Dutch police officers dispatched from the Netherlands. We were told that a Dutch wallet and passport had been found outside the stadium. So straightaway, I collected them from the police during the match. When I contacted the person in question to return his property, he hadn’t even realised it was missing!’
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