Sudan: Trapped NHS doctors 'able to evacuate' following UK government U-turn

Sudan: Trapped NHS doctors 'able to evacuate' following UK government U-turn
The UK government was subjected to intense criticism after they initially said that only British passport holders could use government assistance to evacuate from conflict-hit Sudan.
3 min read
29 April, 2023
The UK government said it was going to end its evacuation plans from Sudan on Saturday [Getty]

Several Sudanese NHS doctors initially told by the British government that they could not be evacuated from Sudan despite working and living in the UK can now fly out from the conflict-hit country, according to reports.

 The government U-turn on Friday comes as the UK prepares its final evacuation flights out of Sudan, before a 72-hour ceasefire put in place on Thursday is expected to end, the BBC said.

The Department of Health and Social Care circulated a message telling NHS doctors in Sudan to make their way to Wadi Seidna airfield for evacuation, and medical staff are to "bring any dependents and proof of NHS employment," it added.

In a statement to The New Arab, the Foreign Office had initially said that evacuation was only open to British passport holders and their dependents. Those who are not British nationals could only come to the UK "via other exit means", – essentially leaving them stranded and without government assistance despite being UK residents.

A government spokesperson maintained that the evacuation response from Khartoum is "open to all British nationals and their eligible dependents who wish to leave Sudan".

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One affected doctor, Abdulrahman Babiker, was among the formerly stranded doctors able to leave Sudan. The Manchester Royal Infirmary doctor was flown to a British military base in Cyprus, and will arrive in the UK on Saturday.

Babiker had been turned away on Thursday by UK government staff upon arrival at the Wadi Seidna airbase after having made a dangerous journey to the airbase in the hopes of being evacuated.

He told the BBC programme 'Newsnight' that the UK’s policy left him feeling "betrayed and disappointed".

After he landed in Cyprus on Friday, Babiker said he was "really glad" that the UK government had reversed their decision, but that he had "mixed feelings" about leaving his family behind.

"I am thinking about them now and trying to work out what I can do to help them escape the danger zone," he said.

Fighting broke out between forces loyal to rival generals Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo on 15 April. The conflict between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has killed at least 512 people, while tens of thousands are said to have fled into neighbouring Egypt, Chad and Ethiopia.

Britons, as well as the NHS doctors, wishing to evacuate Sudan had until midday local time on Saturday to reach the Wadi Seidna base, where evacuation flights are flying out from.

There are at least 2,000 British nationals registered under the government’s evacuation plan. Over 1,500 individuals have been airlifted out of Sudan, according to AFP, with the UK saying it will end its evacuation plans on Saturday.