How is the UK evacuating people from Sudan?

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The first British nationals were evacuated from conflict-torn Sudan on Tuesday.

A 72-hour ceasefire between warring factions has provided a window for foreign nationals to escape a “dangerous, volatile and unpredictable” situation, according to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Several previous ceasefires declared since the April 15 outbreak of fighting were not observed, the Associated Press reports.

Here is a look at what we know about the evacuation plans, so far.

(PA Graphics)

Hundreds of people have died and thousands hurt in a bloody conflict between the Sudanese army and a powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces.

The prospect of airlifting large numbers of people out of Sudan has been complicated by the fact that most major airports have become battlegrounds, while movement out of the capital has proved perilous.

The current explosion of violence comes after two generals fell out over a recent internationally brokered deal with democracy activists, which was meant to incorporate the RSF into the military and eventually lead to civilian rule.

A stream of European, Middle East, African and Asian military aircraft flew in all day Sunday and Monday to ferry hundreds of diplomats out.

For many Sudanese, the departure of foreigners and closure of embassies is a terrifying sign that international powers expect a worsening of the fighting that has already pushed the population into disaster.

Sudanese have desperately sought ways to escape the chaos, fearing that the rival camps will escalate their all-out battle for power once evacuations are completed.

Two more flights carrying around 220 people are expected overnight.

The first flight taking British civilians out of the war torn nation was carrying everyone that was at the airfield and eligible, Rishi Sunak said.

Mr Sunak told broadcasters: “The first flight has taken everybody that was there at the airfield and could be processed.

“We actually have two more flights this evening, and then many more into tomorrow, which will be able to evacuate several hundred people if they can make their way to the airfield.”

The Prime Minister said “over a thousand” UK citizens in Sudan have been contacted about evacuation plans, with officials from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) having spoken to hundreds directly already.

Defence Minister Ben Wallace said 99% of the British nationals who have registered with the Foreign Office are in the capital Khartoum.

The Foreign Office has urged British passport holders and their immediate family members to head to Wadi Saeedna airfield to the north of the city to board evacuation flights.

– Will everyone be able to be evacuated?

The Foreign Office has urged British passport holders and their immediate family members to head to Wadi Saeedna airfield to the north of Khartoum to board evacuation flights.

Mr Wallace told Channel 4 News that so far there are not huge queues at the airfield to try and escape.

He said: “What we’ve learned from both seeing the German and the French evacuation is this is first of all not like Kabul, not thousands at the gate, and people are making their way. They’re being processed.”

The Prime Minister has announced many more flights are expected on Wednesday.

Sudan unrest
A C-130 Hercules leaves for Sudan (MoD)

Mr Wallace said Royal Marines are also scoping out a possible seaborne evacuation from the more “benign environment” of Port Sudan, some 500 miles from the capital.

HMS Lancaster and the RFA Cardigan Bay have both been sent to the region.

– Who is helping British citizens escape the fighting?

Around 120 British military personnel are at the airfield near Khartoum being used for the evacuation effort, Mr Wallace said.

The UK will take over from German forces running the airfield on Wednesday with only one nation able to facilitate the airfield at a time.

Germany said it was operating its final flight on Tuesday evening following the evacuation of around 500 people from 30 nations.

Mr Wallace also told Channel 4 news there is is “some risk that some of the planes are not full”.

He added: “We’ve seen that in the German planes and they’ve then resorted, understandably, to take some other fellow foreign personnel there if there’s room.”

– Is the airbase safe and secure?

Downing Street said the British military stands ready to defend the airfield in Sudan but said efforts would be made to avoid “active engagement” with other forces.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “It’s worth emphasising that international evacuations have been taking place since Sunday and we haven’t seen any significant issues… or large crowds appearing.”

– How long do British citizens have to fly out of Sudan?

Mr Sunak said he could not “guarantee” the long-term safety of the air route being used given the volatility of the ceasefire, but other options were being considered.

The evacuation of UK nationals from Sudan is “inherently dangerous” as it remains unclear how long the ceasefire will hold, James Cleverly has said.

The Foreign Secretary began a keynote speech to the Lord Mayor’s Easter Banquet in London by addressing the conflict on Tuesday.

He said: “As you would expect, I’ve been in Cobra meetings and other meetings on our response to this situation today. I can inform you that a Royal Air Force flight has now left Sudan carrying British nationals to safety this evening and more will follow.

“From the onset of this crisis, we’ve been planning how to get our people out. And now that our and international calls for a ceasefire in Khartoum have been heeded, we are putting those plans into effect, giving priority to those in greatest need, family groups, the sick and the elderly.

“I’m encouraged that both factions have called a 72-hour ceasefire. Of course, we cannot be sure for how long it will hold. And any evacuation from a battle-scarred city is inherently dangerous.

“Britain is working hand in glove with our partners across the world, and after this operation we will do everything possible alongside our friends in the region to secure a lasting settlement for this tragic conflict.”

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