An additional UK evacuation flight left Port Sudan on Monday evening as fighting continues to rage in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
British passport holders, as well as doctors with leave to remain in the UK and their dependants, were told to arrive at Port Sudan international airport on the Red Sea coast before midday local time (11am BST). The flight left the coastal city just over six hours later.
The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) underlined that NHS doctors stranded in Sudan and their family members would be permitted on evacuation flights, overriding previous policies on the issue.
The foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said: “The UK has now airlifted over 2,100 people to safety from Sudan, in what has been the largest and longest evacuation of any western country. I want to thank all of those working to deliver this evacuation and ensure as many people as possible are brought to safety.”
The British Medical Association previously pushed Cleverly to permit evacuations of NHS medics who had been prevented from boarding British airlifts with their family members as they did not have UK passports. On Saturday, the government reversed its policies, airlifting at least 20 NHS doctors out of Khartoum.
The FCDO announced that an additional evacuation flight would take off from Port Sudan on Monday, stating it was the last one currently arranged, after people seeking to board an evacuation flight from the Wadi Seidna airbase north of Khartoum faced a treacherous route to reach the airstrip on Saturday.
People seeking evacuation were forced to navigate through areas of central Khartoum and its twin city, Omdurman, between airstrikes and artillery fire. The Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Alicia Kearns, said she had received information that the Sudanese armed forces (SAF) had prevented people including British nationals from crossing checkpoints to reach the airstrip.
It was also not immediately clear whether all those desperately seeking British evacuation from Sudan would be able to reach Port Sudan, more than 500 miles from Khartoum, in time for Monday’s flight. Many of those fleeing Sudan have described fuel shortages and exorbitantly high transport costs impeding travel across the country to safety, as well as perilous routes out of the capital. More than 500 people have died in Sudan since fighting between two warring generals began more than two weeks ago.
HMS Lancaster, a British ship, remains in Port Sudan, where a US-flagged naval vessel, the USNS Brunswick, docked on Sunday to evacuate American citizens who had been transported from Khartoum by bus.
Port Sudan has become Sudan’s temporary administrative capital as fighting rages across Khartoum and Omdurman, with the SAF conducting regular airstrikes and launching artillery fire at positions held by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, who sheltered inside civilian buildings and around vital infrastructure in the centre of Khartoum.
The UK government has faced criticism over its response to the crisis in Sudan. The home secretary, Suella Braverman, told parliament last week that there were no plans to provide safe or legal routes for Sudanese refugees to seek safety in Britain, and that Sudanese people should register with the UN refugee agency.
The Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell later admitted in an interview on Sky News that “safe and legal routes don’t exist” for Sudanese refugees to reach the UK. “We will be seeking to set up safe and legal routes,” he said, without giving further details.