Sudan: Deadline passes for British nationals to reach evacuation airfield

Sudan: Deadline passes for British nationals to reach evacuation airfield

The deadline for British nationals to reach the evacuation airfield in Sudan has passed as the Government prepares to cease flights out of the war-torn region within hours.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden will chair a Cobra meeting on Saturday afternoon to discuss the security situation in Khartoum in advance of the final flight taking off at 6pm UK time.

Some 1,573 people on 13 flights have been evacuated from the Wadi Saeedna site near the capital but thousands more British citizens may remain.

The BBC reported that all NHS doctors are now eligible to catch flights out of the country following a U-turn by the Government, which initially said evacuation was only open to UK passport holders and their immediate families.

It comes amid criticism of the pace of the British evacuation, which was given more time after a three-day extension to the ceasefire between warring generals was agreed on Thursday.

Mr Dowden denied the Government will effectively “abandon” those who have been unable to make the potentially dangerous journey to the airfield with its decision to cease flights.

The Government was also facing renewed pressure to broaden the eligibility criteria for evacuation after it cited a decline in the number of UK passport holders coming forward as its reason for ending its rescue operation.

Concerns have been raised that the current approach could see families split up or some members left behind, with Labour calling on ministers to use the longer window to rescue others.

Following the decision to end evacuation flights on Saturday, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy urged the Government not to “turn away” British residents without passports, including NHS doctors reportedly trapped in the conflict zone.

Mr Dowden told the BBC: “We are in touch with and engaging rapidly with the Sudanese Doctors’ Association to see what further support we can provide for them.”