Britons looking to flee Sudan have been told there’s no guarantee of additional evacuation flights from the war-torn country.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said the UK “cannot guarantee” how many further evacuation flights will depart once the 72-hour ceasefire in Sudan expires on Thursday night.
The warning comes as British families who have managed to get on to rescue flights told how they’re “grateful to be alive”. The British evacuation mission from Sudan had lifted 536 people to safety on six flights by Wednesday evening.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said “in a fast-moving situation” these were the figures at 9pm on Wednesday “with further flights to come”.
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The military is racing against time to rescue citizens before the truce between the warring factions ends.
Mr Cleverly urged UK nationals who wish to leave Sudan to make their way to the Wadi Saeedna air strip near the capital Khartoum “as soon as possible”. Another two RAF flights were expected to take off from the Wadi Saeedna air strip near the capital Khartoum on Wednesday, as the first flight of UK nationals arrived back in Britain.
Mr Cleverly tweeted: “The 72-hour ceasefire in Sudan ends tomorrow night (April 27). We cannot guarantee how many further flights will depart once the ceasefire ends. If you plan to leave Sudan please travel to the British Evacuation Centre as soon as possible.”
One evacuee, Tariq, who’s made it back to UK soil, said he saw the building next to his shelled in Sudan. “We don’t know who’s going to make it out,” he told BBC News. “We are very lucky, but not everyone is as lucky as us.”
Another, Shereen Soliman, told of her relief at making it out of the African nation alive.
“It was something else. I can’t even describe,” she said. “It was bad, it was very bad, I even don’t want to remember it.”
Africa minister Andrew Mitchell said the evacuation mission was “going very smoothly” with “no great backlog, no great congestion” at the air strip.
But he warned “we are absolutely in the hands of the ceasefire”.
Mr Mitchell told Sky News: “We are doing everything we can to make sure it’s prolonged and on the wider stage, too, trying to negotiate for a longer ceasefire, because if the combatants don’t lay down their arms and return to barracks, there’s going to be a humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan.”
He said that “at the moment those safe and legal routes don’t exist” for refugees from Sudan to claim asylum in the UK.
Military chiefs have told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at least 500 people a day can be airlifted and flights can continue “for as long as we need to” even if the 72-hour pause in fighting agreed between rival generals breaks.
More than 2,000 British nationals in Sudan have registered with the FCDO under evacuation plans, but thousands more could be in the country.
Only British passport holders and immediate family members with existing UK entry clearance are being told they are eligible for evacuation.