Insurers reject Britons moving to Saudi Arabia

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The Independent Online

Insurance companies are refusing to cover workers moving to Saudi Arabia in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.

Although expatriate workers already based in the oil-rich kingdom will continue to be covered by existing premiums, no new ones will be issued now the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has put out a travel warning.

Insurance for overseas workers usually includes medical and emergency repatriation, personal accident cover and repatriation for political reasons. According to the FCO, there are currently around 30,000 UK nationals working in Saudi Arabia.

George Jones, vice-president of special risks at insurance broker Marsh, says the FCO warning was the trigger: "Once that's been issued, it's then not possible to buy insurance for emergency political repatriation. Would you be able to buy house insurance if your house was on fire?

"The people who would be able to write emergency political repatriation are not interested in Saudi Arabia."

Last Monday's suicide bombings targeted Western housing compounds in the Saudi capital Riyadh, killing at least 34 people. Two Britons were among the dead. The FCO warning advised British nationals against "all but essential travel" to the country.

Kevin Steel, a director at brokers Aon, said it might still be possible to get cover via specialist underwriters at Lloyd's of London. But he said premiums could cost double the normal amount. Alternatively, companies could self-insure, although this could be considerably more expensive.

A spokeswoman for Shell, which has 100 workers in the country, said the oil group had been self-insuring its workers for several years. She declined to say if it planned to evacuate its workers.

Royal & SunAlliance confirmed it was no longer providing cover for either travellers to Saudi Arabia or potential long-term workers.

A spokesman said: "As soon as the Foreign Office issues advice not to go to a country, your insurance company would not cover you to go there."