Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said: “The conflict in Ethiopia is deteriorating quickly. In the coming days we may see the fighting move closer to Addis Ababa, which could severely limit options for British nationals to leave Ethiopia.
“I am urging all British nationals – whatever their circumstance - to leave immediately, while commercial flights are readily available and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport remains open.”
She stressed that interest free loans were available to help British nationals to return to the UK “who may otherwise struggle to afford flights”.
She added: “Those who choose not to leave now should make preparations to shelter in a place of safety over the coming weeks. We cannot guarantee there will be options to leave Ethiopia in the future.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been advising Britons to leave the country since November 9 due to the worsening conflict.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has gone to the battlefront, his government said Wednesday, after the leader said martyrdom might be necessary in the year-long war with rival fighters approaching the capital.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the war between Ethiopian federal and allied troops and fighters from the country’s Tigray region.
Mr Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just two years ago for sweeping political reforms and for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. His trajectory from winning the Nobel to now potentially heading into battle has shocked many.
But a move to the front would follow the tradition of Ethiopian leaders including Emperor Haile Selassie and Emperor Yohannes IV, who was killed in battle in 1889, said Christopher Clapham, a retired professor associated with the University of Cambridge.
“It strikes me as a very traditional Ethiopian exertion of leadership,” Mr Clapham said. “It might be necessary to rescue what looks like a very faltering Ethiopian military response.”