British nationals who choose to move for safety within war-torn Sudan do so at their own risk, a Foreign Office minister said.
Giving an update on the situation in the north-east African country, Andrew Mitchell told the Commons: ‘Movement around the capital (Khartoum) remains extremely dangerous and no evacuation option comes without grave risk to life.
‘Khartoum airport is out of action. Energy supplies are disrupted. Food and water are becoming increasingly scarce. Internet and telephone networks are becoming difficult to access.
‘We continue to advise all British nationals in Sudan to stay indoors wherever possible.
‘We recognise circumstances will vary in different locations across Sudan, so we are now asking British nationals to exercise their own judgment about their circumstances, including whether to relocate, but they do so at their own risk.’
Hundreds of people have been killed since the fighting erupted on April 15 between forces loyal to Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF)
The safety of British nationals in Sudan is the ‘utmost priority’ of the Government, he also told MPs.
The Foreign Office minister said: ‘Our ability to support British nationals has not been impacted by the relocation of British embassy staff.
‘The evacuation team will continue to operate from a neighbouring country alongside the Foreign Office in London, which is working throughout the day and night to support British nationals and push for a ceasefire in Sudan.
‘We are asking all British nationals in Sudan to register their presence with us. The roughly 2,000 British nationals registered with us already are being sent – sometimes with great difficulty – at least daily updates by text and email.
‘This step helps enable us to remain in contact with them whilst we find a safe passage from Sudan.
‘Ending the violence is the single most important action we can take to guarantee the safety of British nationals and everyone in Sudan.
‘The Prime Minister (Rishi Sunak), the Foreign Secretary (James Cleverly), the Secretary of State for Defence (Ben Wallace) and I have been in continuous contact with allies and with key regional partners since the outbreak of violence to agree a joint approach to both evacuation and de-escalation of violence.’
It comes as a team of British troops have flown into a port town in the East of Sudan on a reconnaissance mission as the UK Government works through options to evacuate British nationals stranded in the crisis-hit country, most prominently its capital, Khartoum.
The soldiers landed at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea on Monday, though ministers clarified this did not mean a rescue was imminent.
A British warship, the HMS Lancaster, is also in the region and could be used to help with rescue missions, according to Whitehall sources.
It is thought more viable for the Royal Air Force to fly in from Cyprus to a Sudanese airfield just outside the capital – a route used over the weekend to rescue diplomats stuck in the war-torn country.
This is due to the 500-mile long and arduous journey from Khartoum to Port Sudan.
Any decision, however, to order new evacuations will largely depend on the government’s willingness to take risks.
There are roughly 4,000 British passport holders in Sudan, and another option is that the government could ask allies to help take in its citizens.
James Heappey, the armed forces minister, said the military was looking at various alternatives to present to the prime minister as pressure mounts on the government to help thousands of British nationals trapped in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
British forces extracted all British diplomats and their families from the city during a weekend raid.
‘But of course the job isn’t done,’ Mr Heappey said.
‘Work is under way in this building and has been all weekend and all of the back end of last week to give the prime minister and Cobra [the emergency committee meeting of top ministers and officials] options for what else could be done to support the wider community of British nationals in Sudan.
‘Those options are being developed at pace.
‘The prime minister will be given the option to take any of the options that we present him with as and when they arise and that’s been the rhythm of things all weekend long.’