Sudan: NHS doctors allowed on last evacuation flights following U-turn

Sudan: NHS doctors allowed on last evacuation flights following U-turn

NHS doctors in Sudan without British passports have been told they can catch evacuation flights out of the country in a dramatic U-turn.

The UK Government had initially rejected calls to airlift NHS workers who do not possess a British passport due to constraints on the overall capacity of the flights amid a ceasefire which was due to last only 72 hours.

There were also concerns about the Sudanese armed forces refusing to grant safe passage to people with non-Sudanese passports, and about setting a precedent whereby the UK commits to evacuate large numbers of people in comparable future crises around the world.

However, Ministers have now expanded the criteria so that all residents of Britain who do not hold a passport can now board an evacuation flight on Saturday, the BBC reports.

Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the UK military and civil servants had carried out “the longest and largest evacuation of any Western country” with more than 1,500 people flown out of Sudan.

Any remaining British nationals wishing to be evacuated should travel to the Wadi Saeedna airstrip near Khartoum by 11am BST today, he said last night.

Mr Dowden said: “What we are saying now is that people should expect within the next 24 hours, so by six o’clock UK time tomorrow, for us to cease those flights.

“There remains another 24 hours for people to make their way to the airport to ensure that they can take advantage of this.”

He said there had been a “significant decline in the British nationals coming forward”, adding: “Every single British national coming forward, and their dependants, has been put on a plane.”

A ceasefire extended on Thursday is due to expire tomorrow night, which could make it impossible to continue the evacuation if violence reignites.

Ministers faced criticism over their original decision against allowing people who live in the UK but do not hold a British passport to take the flights operated by the UK military, leaving people including NHS doctors stranded in war-torn Sudan.

One of those doctors, Dr Abdulrahman Babiker, had travelled to the country to celebrate Eid.

Prior to the U-turn, Dr Babiker, who works at Manchester Royal Infirmary, had been blocked from boarding a flight as the Foreign Office had initially prioritised British nationals as opposed to those holding UK work permits.