British citizens attempting to flee Sudan are attempting to reach an airport before final rescue efforts in the country are halted.
An additional evacuation flight departs from Port Sudan International Airport in the east of the country today, with those hoping to escape being urged to arrive by noon to be prepared for the journey.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the additional flight was “extraordinary” and will allow for the deportation of a “limited” number of British nationals who remain in the North African country.
Another three-day humanitarian ceasefire was agreed yesterday between clashing factions in Sudan, despite reports of violence erupting during last week’s ceasefire.
More than 2,100 people have been evacuated by the British government on 23 flights from Wadi Saeedna airfield near Khartoum.
However, it is thought that around 1,000 British passport holders could remain.
The UK halted its mission to evacuate citizens from the war-torn country on Saturday as the ceasefire began to collapse, but put in the extra flight after announcing the continued uneasy truce.
Secretary of State James Cleverly said: “Evacuation flights from Wadi Saeedna have ended but our rescue efforts continue from Port Sudan.”
He added Britain will continue to work alongside its international allies to bring about a long-term end to the conflict.
NHS doctors without British passports are also being admitted to recent evacuation trips after criticism of government eligibility criteria.
So far, only UK nationals and their immediate family members have been allowed to board the flights.
The government’s decision not to provide escorts to the airport for people making dangerous journeys through war zones was also criticized.
What you need to know about the war in Sudan
How did the war start?
The current fighting is the result of a power struggle between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The paramilitary group, originally set up by dictator Omar al-Bashir to quell a rebellion in the western Darfur region, cooperated with the army to overthrow the autocrat in 2019.
This should precede Sudan’s transition to democratic government, a move supported by Western nations.
The North African country experienced power-sharing between military and civilian leaders for more than two years, but that ended in a coup in October 2021.
In Sudan, Army General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan remained as Sudan’s de facto ruler and RSF General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, as Vice President.
What triggered the recent escalation?
The Sudanese people and the international community continued to press for a renewed transition to democracy after the coup.
The plan was to bring Sudan to a point where civilian parties would have control of the military, into which the RSF would disintegrate.
But there have long been tensions around the details of that agreement, particularly the proposed timeline – the Army wanted integration to be completed in two years, but the RSF insisted on waiting 10.
Still, negotiations looked hopeful as a final deal was due to be signed earlier this month before a new phase of fighting erupted on April 15.
The army pointed the finger at the RSF for mobilizing troops to key strategic locations in the capital, Khartoum, and the RSF claimed it was merely responding to the army’s alleged plan to seize full power with Bashir loyalists.
The Foreign Office was assisted by the Armed Forces and Border Guard staff, with HMS Lancaster and the RAF deployed to the area.
The flights flew over Cyprus – which has activated a rescue mechanism to evacuate civilians from third world countries – before continuing on to the UK and landing at Stansted Airport.
British citizens have told of their efforts to flee Sudan, many having to risk their lives walking for hours through streets ravaged by gunfire and explosions.
Tarig Babikir, who walked 10 miles to the airport, said: “Right now it’s complete anarchy, complete chaos. Anyone can rob you, anyone can shoot you.”
Other families have spoken of their relief at being reunited in the UK.
A couple named Reem and Nagi were filmed hugging at Stansted Airport after fearing they would never be reunited.
Reem, a radiology registrar in Newcastle, told Sky News: “I got an email at 3am saying he could get on the last plane.
‘Nagi was then 10 hours away from the airport. When he got there the area was being bombed and I felt like I dragged him from safety straight into the war.”
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