Sudan will experience a humanitarian catastrophe – Africa minister

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Sudan will experience a “humanitarian catastrophe”, the Africa minister has said.

Andrew Mitchell told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the position in terms of food and the lack of humanitarian relief workers will lead to such a crisis.

He said most humanitarian workers are leaving and will not be able to come back until there is a ceasefire.

Mr Mitchell denied that the Government should have seen the conflict in Sudan coming.

“This isn’t an ideological battle, this is a battle between two generals for power,” he said. “There is no ideology involved in this, it’s raw power being fought over.

“One might have hoped that this would never happen given the appalling humanitarian jeopardy it has placed so many people in.”

The minister added: “We would not have expected that these two generals would have slugged it out in this way on a totally non-ideological issue, let alone deploy heavy weapons in built-up areas.”

Questioned on next steps, Mr Mitchell went on: “What is urgently required is a ceasefire, for the combatants to lay down their arms and return to barracks and for the political process, which was moving forward significantly before the second week of April, for that to reassert itself.”

He called it a “hypothetical question” at this time.

“If you turned up at the airstrip in Khartoum seeking to be an asylum seeker you would not be eligible because you cannot be an asylum seeker from your own country,” he went on.

Mr Mitchell said people should “ideally” be “pre-cleared” before they arrive at the airstrip having been in touch with the Foreign Office.

“Otherwise we are expecting them to have a British passport and so far I’m not aware of any problems in that process,” he said.

The minister added: “If you arrive at the airstrip with children under the age of 18 who do not have documents, so long as the border force officers who are there are content that you are a family unit then you will get on a plane.”

British citizens in Sudan have been told that they need to make their own way at their “own risk” to the Wadi Saeedna airstrip in Khartoum where evacuations are taking place.

Sudan unrest
A C-130 Hercules leaves for Sudan (LPHOT Mark Johnson/PA)

He expressed “enormous sympathy” for British nationals facing travel difficulties within Sudan.

Responding to suggestions that there has been a lack of communication from the Foreign Office, Mr Mitchell said that people who have registered with the government department should receive contact from them at least once a day.

But the committee heard “atmospherics” in Khartoum “hinder” that sort of communication and make it “spasmodic”.

“Yesterday there was 2% internet – that does make communicating extremely difficult but in principle that has been what we have tried to achieve,” Mr Mitchell said.

He also confirmed that Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) arrived at the airstrip in Khartoum on Tuesday morning.

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