Britain to Run Extra Evacuation Flight From Port Sudan
Britain will run an additional evacuation flight out of war-torn Sudan as rescue efforts shift to the east of the country on Monday.
Members of the military are working to assist UK citizens and others trying to escape the conflict zone amid an uneasy ceasefire, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.
Some 2,122 people have been evacuated on 23 Royal Air Force (RAF) flights from the Wadi Seidna airfield near the Sudanese capital Khartoum, but more than 1,000 British passport holders may remain in the country.
The government ceased evacuation operations from the site on Saturday as an armistice between the country’s warring generals appeared to start breaking down.
The FCDO advised remaining UK citizens to travel to Port Sudan where an extra flight will take off on Monday.
The deadline for British nationals to reach the airport passed at 12 p.m. local time, or 11 a.m. British Summer Time.
The armed forces and border force staff have been supporting the FCDO with the evacuation mission, with HMS Lancaster and the RAF redirected to the area.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said, “Evacuation flights have ended from Wadi Seidna but our rescue efforts continue from Port Sudan.”
“I’m proud that the UK led the largest and longest evacuation effort of any Western nation,” he wrote on Twitter.
The UK will “continue to push for a long-term ceasefire and a stable transition to civilian rule” in Sudan, he said.
Hundreds of people have been killed in a bloody conflict between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, which broke out on April 15.
The UK government said on April 23 that the British military had evacuated UK diplomats and their families from Sudan.
The RAF took over the Wadi Seidna airfield from the Germans on April 25 to begin airlifting other British nationals and their immediate families who wished to leave and were able to get to the airfield. The evacuees were first flown to Cyprus and then to the UK.
The operation was carried out amid a fragile 72-hour ceasefire between the warring factions. An extension of the armistice was brokered on Friday, but fighting has broken out again in Khartoum.
Speaking to the BBC, Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell said the operation has been “extremely successful,” but stressed, “We can’t stay there forever in such dangerous circumstances.”
The government has advised any British nationals still remaining in Sudan to make their way to Port Sudan.
A statement on the FCDO travel advice site says: “We have established an office at the Coral Hotel in Port Sudan. If you are a British national in Port Sudan who needs help to leave Sudan, visit our team who will be able to signpost you to options for departure.”
The FCDO said on Thursday that British Ambassador to Sudan Giles Lever has been relocated to neighbouring Ethiopia to “lead the UK’s diplomatic efforts in the region to bring fighting to an end in Sudan.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News on Sunday, “The evacuation that we have conducted is the longest and largest evacuation of any Western nation.”
He added: “We have now got some staff based at Port Sudan, which is where we are going to continue providing consular support for British nationals that have chosen to remain in the country.”
The government said initially that only British passport holders and immediate family members with existing UK entry clearance were eligible for evacuation.
But, hours before the final flight took off, the government said it had broadened the eligibility criteria for evacuation to include Sudanese doctors working for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
Abdulrahman Babiker, a Sudanese doctor who works at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, told the BBC that he had initially been turned away by offices on Thursday despite having a UK work permit. He was later allowed to board a flight to Cyprus and would be travelling to the UK on Saturday.
Following criticism from opposition politicians, the government agreed to include NHS doctors without UK passports on the last flights out of Sudan.
A spokesman said: “We have made the decision to extend the evacuation criteria to include eligible non-British nationals in Sudan who are working as clinicians within the NHS and their dependents who have leave to enter the UK.
“We are able to offer this increased eligibility thanks to the efforts of the staff and military who have delivered this evacuation, the largest of any Western country.”
“We continue to work intensively, alongside international partners, to maintain the ceasefire and bring an end to fighting, the single most important thing we can do to ensure the safety of British nationals and others in Sudan.”
PA Media contributed to this report.