'It's a scary situation': Brits left behind in Sudan as deadline to reach evacuation airfield passes

ITV News' Carl Dinnen reports on what awaits the British nationals who remain in Sudan

The deadline for British nationals to reach the evacuation airfield in Sudan passed at 12pm local time, but it is clear there are still UK citizens and their family members who are still trapped amid the violence.

The final evacuation flight from the Wadi Saeedna airfield near Khartoum will depart on Saturday night.

British pensioner Maureen, speaking from the north of Khartoum, told ITV News some were too frightened to make the journey to the airbase to be evacuated.

"People don't understand, they think you should take that risk but it's not that easy and I don't feel confident enough to do that," she said.

As she spoke, popping could be heard in the background. Maureen said it was gunfire.

'I don't know if you can hear the firing now - the shooting'

"It's a scary situation, it really is. Until you're in this situation you'll never know and I know people will be thinking 'oh just get out, go and chance it' but it's not that simple. It really isn't. "I just pray to God that something will turn for the good."

Another person still in the war-torn country is 7-year-old Mohamed Niyal Hidar Abdullah. He is British through his father, his family says, but he is stuck in Sudan without a passport.

His mother has been trying unsuccessfully to get him on one of the British flights.

"To just get to the airbase is a life-threatening journey because although there are claims of a cease-fire there is no actual ceasefire that's taken hold on the ground," the 7-year-old's cousin Mohammed Elnaiem said.

The government said the decision to wind down its evacuation operation was taken because of a significant decline in the number of British people trying to flee the country.

Some 1,888 people have now been evacuated from Sudan on 21 flights since the operation began on Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “The UK has brought more than 1888 people to safety from Sudan thanks to the efforts of staff and military working around the clock to deliver this evacuation – the largest of any Western country. “We continue to press all diplomatic levers to secure a long term ceasefire and end the bloodshed in Sudan. Ultimately a stable transition to civilian rule is the best way to protect the security and prosperity of the Sudanese people.”

The government advises those still in Sudan to continue following the UK's travel advice.

Meanwhile, residents in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, said fighting had resumed on Saturday, despite the extension of a ceasefire between two warring generals.

The civilian death toll reached 411 on Saturday, according to the Sudan Doctors' Syndicate, while a further 2,023 civilians have been wounded.

On Saturday the UK government agreed to include NHS doctors without UK passports on the last flights out of Sudan, amid criticism over the scope of its eligibility criteria for evacuation.

Initially, the government said the evacuation was only open to UK passport holders and their immediate families.

The development comes amid criticism of the pace of the British evacuation, which was given more time after a three-day extension to the ceasefire was agreed on Thursday.

British Nationals pictured about to board a Cyprus-bound RAF aircraft in Sudan Credit: Ministry of Defence

Speaking to ITV News, Mohamed Omar said his brother-in-law Ammar Awad was separated from his wife Sarah Omer and their three children while attempting to get on an evacuation flight out of Sudan earlier this week.

Ms Omer holds a UK passport and the three children she shares with Mr Ammar are British nationals, he explained, but Mr Ammar holds just a Sudanese passport.

Mr Omar said Mr Ammar was asked to produce proof that he was the father of the three children at the airbase, but all he had as proof in the moment was that the children's surnames match his.

Speaking of his nieces and nephews, Mr Omar said: "The kids were crying, they're devastated."

He added: "Unfortunately they still wouldn't let him [Mr Ammar] in and so they had to leave without him. Now he is stranded there by himself."

'The kids were crying... they had to leave without him'

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden chaired a Cobra meeting on Saturday to discuss the security situation in Sudan in advance of the final flight taking off.

Mr Dowden denied the government will effectively “abandon” those who have been unable to make the potentially dangerous journey to the site with its decision to cease flights.

Earlier, concerns were raised that the current approach could see families split up or some members left behind, with Labour calling on ministers to use the longer window to rescue others.

Following the decision to end evacuation flights on Saturday, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy urged the government not to "turn away" British residents without passports, including NHS doctors reportedly trapped in the conflict zone.

Mr Dowden told the BBC: "We are in touch with and engaging rapidly with the Sudanese Doctors' Association to see what further support we can provide for them."

The British evacuation mission was nearly brought to an end on Thursday night, when a 72-hour ceasefire, brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia, was set to finish at midnight local time (11pm BST).

British nationals board an RAF aircraft for evacuation at Wadi Seidna military airport. Credit: AP

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had said it would be "impossible" to continue the rescue effort if fighting went ahead.

A three-day extension of the truce meant flights, which were scheduled to continue regardless of the potentially intensifying clashes, were able to run without the added pressure.

However, in a sign of the fragility of the ceasefire, residents in Khartoum said clashes continued around the presidential palace, headquarters of Sudan's state broadcaster and a military base.

The battles sent thick columns of black smoke billowing over the city skyline.

The renewed ceasefire is due to end at midnight Sudan time (11pm BST) on 30 April, at which point violence could continue to escalate.

Help and advice

  • If you are in Sudan you can contact the FCDO 24/7 helpline at +44 1908 516 666

  • Select option 2 for consular services for British nationals.

  • If you're in the UK and worried about a British person in Sudan you can call 020 7008 5000.

  • FCDO advises against travel to Sudan for security reasons. More information can be found on the government website.

  • If you have not registered your presence in Sudan, you can register here.

  • You should also check the travel advice for Sudan for the latest guidance.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...