As the first evacuated Britons touched down at London’s Stansted Airport, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman announced that Britain had airlifted 301 individuals out of Sudan and hoped to finish eight evacuation flights by Wednesday’s end.
Britain started removing its residents from the country of North Africa on Tuesday, joining other countries in doing the same. Clashes between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have left hundreds dead and left foreigners trapped.
Britons are being airlifted by Britain’s Royal Air Force to Cyprus, before being flown on to London.
“We intend to keep running the evacuation flights,” Sunak’s spokesman told reporters. “It is a fast moving situation and it is something kept under close review bearing in mind there is a time-limited ceasefire.”
Wahied Hassan, 68, from Coventry in central England, and his 66-year-old wife Fatima, who were visiting family in Khartoum, were among the first to arrive back in Britain.
Hassan told Reuters he received a call from the British embassy on Tuesday morning, asking him to reach the airfield in 30 minutes and bring only small belongings.
“On our way to the airfield, we saw so much trouble, a lot of checkpoints … militia threatening people, scaring people, abusing people verbally and physically,” he told Reuters.
“It’s very scary to be honest. Very scary. I’m so lucky.”
The government has come under criticism for not offering Britons an escort to the airfield. Hassan said he had “begged” a friend to give him a lift.
Brigadier Dan Reeve, the head of the British military operation in Sudan, was quoted by the BBC as saying it would not be safe to bring people together in one location in Khartoum as there had been instances of convoys being attacked.
“This is not a race to get it wrong,” he said, adding that around 500 British nationals a day could be evacuated.
The government has estimated around 4,000 Britons were in Sudan.
Sunak’s spokesman said the evacuation flights had been full or close to full. While the majority were British nationals, the spokesman did not give a breakdown and said other nationalities might have been offered seats on a flight-by-flight basis.