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Sudan Fly Out

Foreigners in Sudan urged to evacuate as ministers set midday Saturday deadline for departure

The UK government has announced that British nationals who are currently trapped in Sudan have until midday on Saturday local time to get on a flight before the evacuation operation comes to an end. According to Oliver Dowden, the deputy prime minister, more than 1,500 people have already been flown out, and there has been a “significant decline in British nationals coming forward”, prompting the government to end the operation. Although the existing ceasefire is not due to run out until the end of Sunday, there are calls to extend the scope of the operation before it ends.

In the meantime, the British Medical Association has urged the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, to allow the evacuation of NHS medics who are being prevented from joining the British effort because they do not have UK passports. The BMA said the UK should take advantage of the extension of the ceasefire to allow the estimated 24 NHS doctors with work visas to leave the country, which is at risk of descending into full-scale civil war between the Sudanese army and its paramilitary rival, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Dr Latifa Patel, the chair of the BMA’s representative body, expressed deep concern after reports of NHS doctors in Sudan with UK visas “being turned away from evacuation flights”. Dr Abdulrahman Babiker, a Sudanese-born registrar at Manchester Royal Infirmary, was prevented from flying back to the UK after arriving at the Wadi Seidna airbase from where RAF evacuation flights were departing. The doctor said he had worked in the UK throughout the Covid crisis and felt “totally betrayed” by the ban on holders of work visas, which has continued all week despite repeated lobbying efforts from medical groups and unions.

The RAF planes have been continuing to fly in and out of the Wadi Seidna airbase, which is now guarded by British troops, despite an incident on Friday morning when Turkey said a C-130 transport aircraft was shot at from the ground. “Light weapons were fired on our C-130 evacuation plane,” Turkey said, although there were no injuries. RSF paramilitaries denied firing at the aircraft, which landed in an area controlled by the rival Sudanese armed forces. There are also wider concerns about the security situation, with reports of ceasefire violations in and around the city of Khartoum.

The Foreign Office has urged Britons to come to the airbase “as quickly as possible” but the government said it would only evacuate UK passport holders, their spouses, and children under 18. RAF planes are estimated to have brought more than 1,500 people from Sudan to Cyprus, with a further 850 men, women, and children flying on to the UK on charter flights provided by the British government. Dowden said: “Every single British national that has come forward and their eligible dependants have been put safely on to a plane,” but added: “We are seeing those numbers declining significantly. And just like other countries, as those numbers decline, we have put an end date on this.”

The UK will maintain a presence in Sudan, particularly at exit points such as Port Sudan, 500 miles northeast of the capital. A small presence of British troops is already there, and the frigate HMS Lancaster has docked. A UK-bound charter plane carrying about 250 people evacuated from Sudan on RAF rescue flights left Cyprus at 2 pm BST. A second charter carrying evacuees was scheduled to head to Birmingham in the early evening local time.

By Mrs. Samia Malik


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