James Cleverly Defends Speed Of UK Evacuation From Sudan

Foreign secretary warns rescue flights might be "impossible" once ceasefire ends.
Sky News

James Cleverly has defended the speed at which the UK evacuation from Sudan and warned it could be “impossible” from Britons to escape once the ceasefire ends on Thursday night.

The foreign secretary said 536 UK nationals had so far been airlifted out of the country.

More than 2,000 Britons in Sudan have registered with the Foreign Office under evacuation plans, but thousands more could be in the war-torn nation.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, Cleverly was told France has rescued 936 people so far, with Germany having evacuated 700 people by Tuesday, Pakistan had taken out 700 people and China had taken out 900 poeple.

Cleverly said it was “not as simple” as “these guys have done really well we’ve done really badly”.

“Different countries have different sets of circumstances. Their nationals in countries don’t all behave the same way,” he said.

“Countries where their nationals tend to live in a close expat community who are geographically co-located, it’s easier for them to move en masse, it’s easier for them to be evacuated.”

“British nationals, the pattern that we have seen as they tend to be more distributed around the city, often have Sudanese nationals as part of their families.”

The 72-hour ceasefire in Sudan ends this evening and he warned Britons in the country not to pin their hopes on it being extended.

“We cannot predict exactly what will happen when that ceasefire ends, but what we do know is it will be much, much harder, potentially impossible,” he said.

“So, what we’re saying to British nationals is if you’re hesitant, if you’re weighing up your options, our strong, strong advice is to go through Wadi Saeedna [airbase] whilst the ceasefire is up and running.

“There are planes, there is capacity, we will lift you out. I’m not able to make those same assurances once a ceasefire has ended.”

The Government is working to provide other routes out of Sudan, with HMS Lancaster progressing towards Port Sudan, the Red Sea dock some 500 miles from Khartoum that could possibly be used in a seaborne operation.

But with UK nationals being told to make their own way to evacuation sites, that trip would be made particularly challenging by fuel shortages and the traffic of people fleeing.


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