British nationals in Sudan have been warned the UK “cannot guarantee” how many more evacuation flights will leave Khartoum after the 72-hour ceasefire expires.
So far, 536 British nationals have been airlifted to safety on six flights, according to the Foreign Office.
The US-Saudi mediated ceasefire between Sudan’s two warring factions is due to expire at midnight local time, amid fears that the bloody clashes which have killed hundreds of people will continue.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the UK “cannot guarantee” how many further flights will depart after the deadline is reached.
He urged UK nationals who want to leave Sudan to make their way to the Wadi Saeedna air strip near the capital “as soon as possible”.
At least 459 people have died according to the World Health Organisation, and thousands of others injured since the power struggle between Sudan’s army and paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out into fighting almost two weeks ago.
More than 2,000 British nationals in Sudan have registered with the Foreign Office under evacuation plans, but thousands more could be in the war-torn country.
Only British passport holders and immediate family members with existing UK entry clearance are being told they are eligible for evacuation.
They have been told to make their own way to the airfield near the capital to be evacuated to Cyprus before being flown on to London.
The home secretary ruled out introducing a safe and legal route for asylum seekers in Sudan to seek refuge in the UK on Wednesday.
Asked whether the UK was going to “start looking at safe routes for refugees from Sudan”, Suella Braverman said “we have no plans to do that” adding that the government’s focus “first and foremost” is to “support British nationals and their dependents”.
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But some have criticised the government for being too slow in its “large-scale” evacuation, which started on Tuesday, with other countries like Germany, completing its evacuations on Tuesday night. UK diplomats and their families were evacuated from Sudan on Saturday.
Africa minister Andrew Mitchell said the evacuation mission was “going very smoothly” at the air strip but warned we are “in the hands of the ceasefire”.
He told Sky News “we are doing everything we can” to prolong the truce adding that “if the combatants don’t lay down their arms and return to barracks” there will be a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Sudan.
On Wednesday evening, the chief of Sudan’s army said it had “initially accepted” a plan to extend the ceasefire by another 72 hours.
An army statement indicated General Abdel Fattah al Burhan was open to sending an envoy to the capital of South Sudan, Juba, for talks.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc, proposed the truce deal, which includes both the army and the RSF sending representatives to the city discuss the details of a longer ceasefire.
There was no immediate comment from the RSF on the initiative, which, if accepted by both sides, would mark a major breakthrough after days of talks.
The fighting has pushed the population to near breaking point, with food growing more difficult to obtain, electricity cut off across much of the capital and other cities and many hospitals shut down.
Multiple aid agencies have had to suspend operations and the UN refugee agency said it was gearing up for potentially tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighbouring countries.