UK's Sudan evacuation mission comes to an end with over 2,000 people airlifted to safety as fighting rages on

1 May 2023, 19:02 | Updated: 2 May 2023, 01:35

The UK's evacuation mission in war-torn Sudan has come to an end with 2,197 brought to safety, making it the longest and largest airlift by any Western nation during the crisis, the Foreign Office has said.
The UK's evacuation mission in war-torn Sudan has come to an end with 2,197 brought to safety, making it the longest and largest airlift by any Western nation during the crisis, the Foreign Office has said. Picture: Getty

By Chris Samuel

The UK has ended its evacuation mission in war-torn Sudan with 2,197 people brought to safety, making it the longest and largest airlift by any Western nation during the crisis, the Foreign Office has said.

The UK carried out its final airlifts on Monday with two flights from Port Sudan, on eastern coast of the country, as the fight for control of the capital Khartoum by rival factions raged on.

Attention now turns to diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, the department said, as civilian casualties continue to rise.

The scramble to fly Brits to safety came amid fierce fighting between the Sudanese army and rival paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

But though British diplomats were quickly pulled out the country in a special military operation a week later the violence erupted on April 15, the UK government was criticised for not getting British nationals to safety as well.

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After the rival factions agreed to a ceasefire, the Royal Air Force flew over 20 flights and over 1,000 personnel were deployed by the UK to evacuate British nationals.

On Friday, the UK government announced that non-British NHS staff in Sudan would be able to get on flights out of the country, having initially rejected calls to evacuate NHS workers without British passports due to constraints on capacity.

UK military personnel prepare to leave via an RAF aircraft from Wadi Seidna Air Base bound for Cyprus, on 30th April, 2023
UK military personnel prepare to leave via an RAF aircraft from Wadi Seidna Air Base bound for Cyprus, on 30th April, 2023. Picture: Getty

So far, the UK has moved 1,087 people from other nations, including the US, Ireland, Netherlands, Canada, Germany and Australia to safety, though the total is expected to be updated on Tuesday when the last flights arrive in Cyprus.

On Saturday, the British Government ended airlifts from an airfield north of Khartoum, due to what it said was a "significant decline" in the number of Britons who were coming forward, and "an increasingly volatile situation on the ground".

The operation was then moved to Port Sudan where a team was formed to offer consular assistance to any remaining Brits in the country, with Royal Navy frigate HMS Lancaster was sent to the port to assist with the evacuation.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly thanked staff and military for their "extraordinary" efforts, adding: "As the focus turns to humanitarian and diplomatic efforts, we will continue to do all we can to press for a long-term ceasefire and an immediate end to the violence in Sudan."

This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising over Khartoum.
This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 28, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising over Khartoum. Picture: Getty

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Yet again the men and women of our Armed Forces have led the way.

"In one week, the RAF has flown more than 20 flights, deployed over a thousand personnel, evacuated over 2,000 civilians and helped citizens from more than 20 countries to get home.

He added: "HMS Lancaster will remain at Port Sudan and her crew will continue to help provide support."

International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell been in Kenya's capital Nairobi over the weekend to meet with the country's President William Samoei Ruto and African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat to discuss the conflict.

Evacuees and military personnel boarding an RAF aircraft bound for Cyprus, on 29th April, 2023 in Omdurman, Sudan.
Evacuees and military personnel boarding an RAF aircraft bound for Cyprus, on 29th April, 2023 in Omdurman, Sudan. Picture: Getty

The UK's ambassador to Sudan, who faced criticism after reportedly being on holiday when the fighting began, was deployed to Addis Ababa last week to support the UK’s diplomatic regional response to Sudan from the British Embassy in Ethiopia.

Upwards of 411 civilians have died in the conflict with over 2,023 injured, according to the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, which monitors casualties.

British Nationals safely departing an RAF aircraft, after being evacuated from Sudan, on April 25, 2023 at RAF Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus.
British Nationals safely departing an RAF aircraft, after being evacuated from Sudan, on April 25, 2023 at RAF Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus. Picture: Getty

Meanwhile, over 50,000 Sudanese refugees, most of whom are women and children, have been forced to cross over into Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and the Central African Republic since fighting broke out in the region, according to the United Nations.

British nationals who remain in Sudan have been urged by the British Government to continue to follow its travel advice for the country, warning that the situation continues to be "volatile".

Consular assistance is still available at Port Sudan, which is now effectively the country's administrative capital while the chaos continues in Khartoum.

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