UK to stop evacuation flights from Sudan on Saturday
The final Britons scrambling to leave Sudan departed from the war-torn country on Saturday as the Government closed down its airbridge indefinitely.
Around 1,573 UK nationals were evacuated on 13 flights since the plan began to extract people a week ago, although thousands of people could have been left out of the programme.
It comes amid criticism of the pace of the evacuation, which was given more time after a three-day extension to the ceasefire between warring Sudanese generals was agreed late on Thursday.
On Saturday night senior Army officers said that warnings of the impending crisis had been given a full week before the Foreign Office decided to act.
In another twist, all NHS doctors were deemed eligible to catch flights out of the country following a last-minute U-turn by the Government, which initially said that evacuation was only open to UK passport holders and their immediate families.
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Dr Abdulrahman Babiker was one of 20 NHS medics initially told that they could not board flights because they were not British nationals, although they have UK work permits.
Now evacuated, the Manchester Royal Infirmary doctor said: “I am happy that I am finally in a safe place, away from a war and on my way back to the UK. At the same time I feel down that my family are still endangered by this fighting in my country.”
Deputy PM Oliver Dowden chaired a Cobra meeting in advance of the final flight, which left Wadi Seidna air base at 6pm UK time.
British special forces boarded US Chinook helicopters early last Sunday morning to airlift embassy staff out of Khartoum. But this was a full 15 days after chief of joint operations Lt Gen Charlie Stickland first briefed the Cabinet Office of military intelligence of an impending eruption of violence between Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan’s government forces and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
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Those warnings were repeated two days later but the Foreign Office allegedly remained “beset by inertia”.
It took another warning from Gen Stickland for the FCDO to grant approval to evacuate embassy staff.
One senior officer at Permanent Joint HQ, in Northwood, London, said: “The FCDO team could not make a decision between them. It was chaotic. This was poor, very poor.”
Mr Dowden said: “We are in touch with and engaging rapidly with the Sudanese Doctors’ Association to see what further support we can provide for them.”
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