‘Get Britons out’ of Sudan, Government urged as Germans and Dutch already flying out their citizens

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  • April 24, 2023
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he Government came under growing pressure on Monday to evacuate Britons from war-hit Sudan as rescue missions from other European nations were being carried out.

One estimate said up to 4,000 British citizens could be caught up in the war which has erupted in the country.

UK diplomats and their families were brought to safety in a “complex and rapid” rescue operation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed on Sunday. But, British nationals in Khartoum said they feel “abandoned” by diplomats after being told by the Government to shelter in place while embassy staff were evacuated.

The Sudanese Junior Doctors Association UK said it is aware of 71 Sudanese NHS doctors, who are British citizens or residents, “currently trapped” in Sudan because of the “ongoing conflict”.

“We are concerned for their safety and the safety of their spouses and children,” the association said on Sunday evening.

“These are UK citizens or residents and a mixture of consultants and junior doctors, the situation is worsening and they need immediate evacuation from this war zone.”

The evacuation of British Embassy staff and their families from the capital Khartoum involved more than 1,200 personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

Meanwhile European nations are working to remove their citizens. A first German air force plane with 101 people evacuated from Sudan arrived in Berlin early on Monday, according to a military source.

The Airbus A321 had transported the evacuees from the Jordanian base Al Azrak that the German military is using as a hub for the evacuation operation to Berlin.

In total, the German military has flown out 313 people from Sudan so far, the source said.

Meanwhile, a Dutch military plane with evacuees flew from Sudan to Jordan early on Monday, the Dutch foreign ministry said.

People from different nationalities, including Dutch nationals, were on board the plane, the ministry said without giving further detail.

The Irish Government has confirmed it planned to send a team to Sudan to evacuate Irish citizens.

Alicia Kearns, chair of the UK’s Commons foreign affairs committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The reality is we have to get British nationals out.

“If however, there was to be no evacuation because it’s too dangerous…then we have a moral obligation to tell British nationals as soon as possible that that is the judgement that has been made because they then need to be able to make their own decisions.”

She stressed that Britons in Sudan would be living in “abject fear”, with water and food shortages, and reports that some people were killing their pets “beacuse they are worried they are going to starve”.

“People are terrified,” she added.

She emphasised that there is very limited amount of evacuation because of the complexities on the ground.

She also highlighted that there was a “meaningful risk” to the lives of diplomats which was why they were flown out first.

“Now the focus has to shift to getting out British nationals,” she added.

She emphasised that this was “enormously difficult” with only one airstrip believed to be used for evacuatio, with some nations taking out their citizens by convoys and then ship.

“I suspect that we are well over a thousand who wish to be evacuated,” she added.

“But these sometimes these are large families. I suspect we could be looking at 3,000, 4,000 plus.”

Britain’s Africa minister Andrew Mitchell stressed the “critical” thing was to get a ceasefire to allow citizens to be rescued but evacuations were also being explored and any opportunity to do so would be seized.

He told Sky News: “We will do everything we can, and I mean everything to get our British citizens out.

“Our attention, as it has always been…since we went into 24/7 crisis mode, has been to facilitate the exit of our own citizens as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Every single option is being explored in detail and the moment that it is possible to change the travel advice and move them we will.

“We are looking at every single opportunity to help them, to evacuate, and we will take any opportunity that presents itself to do so.”

He stressed British diplomats had been in “acute danger” because the two armies in the Sudan conflict were either side of the British embassy and residence, with diplomatic premises being deliberately targeted, and this was why they were evacuated first.

But Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, piled pressure on the Government to come up with an evacuation plan within hours.

He told Talk TV: “If a plan does not emerge today I worry that individuals will take it upon themselves to try and make their own way to the border.”

He added: “We need to work collectively with the international community.

“We have incredible assets, some of the best special forces in the world, we can make this happen, we can put pressure on the warring factions to control a ceasefire..but we need to lean into this and do that today.”

He believes a “safe corridor” for evacuations could be protected by international forces if there is a ceasefire.

He also claimed that both sides of the conflict were being supported by Vladimir Putin’s Wagner Group “private army” as they want to exploit Sudan’s gold to fund his war in Ukraine.

A damaged building in the southern part of Khartoum

/ AFP via Getty Images

The capital Khartoum is gripped by an internal battle for control between rival generals. More than 420 people have been killed and millions have been trapped without basic access to services since the fighting broke out in Sudan.

Senior Opposition MPs said they remained “deeply concerned” about the welfare of British nationals still in Sudan.

In a joint statement, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy and shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “We need to know about Government plans to help them and the steps the UK is taking to support an immediate ceasefire.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly chaired a sixth Cobra session to discuss the “escalation” of violence in Sudan.

Mr Cleverly has warned that UK Government efforts to provide assistance to those stuck in Sudan will remain “severely limited” until a ceasefire is reached.

Mr Cleverly is expected to deliver an emergency statement on the latest developments in the Commons on Monday.

The official advice continues to be for UK nationals to register their presence in Sudan with the Foreign Office and to stay indoors.

The prospect of airlifting large numbers of people out of Sudan has been complicated by the fact that most major airports have become battlegrounds and movement out of the capital has proven perilous.

US special forces also evacuated about 70 of its staff from Khartoum on Sunday but Washington has so far said it remains too dangerous to carry out government-co-ordinated mass evacuation of citizens.