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‘Tired and confused’ Sudan evacuees left stranded in London after being evicted from hotel, charity says | UK News

Families evacuated from Sudan have been “left stranded” after being evicted from government allocated hotels, according to the charity Goodwill Caravan. 

It says dozens of families have been told they are not eligible for housing due to members holding British passports.

Noura Fadel fled Sudan with her parents and two brothers on April 30.

“On arrival to the UK my father had a stroke and has been in a hospital near Stansted Airport, while the rest of us stayed at a nearby hotel,” she said.

Speaking through an interpreter, she told Sky News the hotel evicted them on Thursday afternoon. Noura said they stayed on the streets until 2am before a local council gave them a room, only to be evicted from there by the morning. She says they then sat in a KFC restaurant in south London with nowhere to go.

“We are so tired and confused. My family are in disbelief, how has this happened to us? We had money and a house and a life then the banks closed and we couldn’t get any money out to escape,” she said.

“The only reason why we came to this country is because my father is British.”

“We’re hours away from my father now,” Noura said. “I am scared that if anything happens to my dad then how will we get to him?”

Read more:
Inside war-torn Sudan where people are trapped in prison of urban warfare
Evacuation mission from Sudan ends with more than 2,000 brought to safety
Husband reunited with pregnant wife in UK after fleeing Sudan

Goodwill Caravan says more than 20 families are in need of help in the London area but that unlike those fleeing Ukraine, the Sudanese evacuees are not categorised as refugees because they have British passports, and so a “loophole” in the system has left them stranded.

“These people have fled violence and seen unspeakable trauma in Sudan. They don’t want to be here, they have their own homes in Sudan, but between night and day there were bodies on the streets so they had to flee. Now they are being evicted,” Hanan Ashegh, the charity’s founder, told Sky News.

“Some people are lucky because they have family members who can temporarily take them in, but many have nowhere to go.

“They’ve paid all their savings to get to safety and have nothing left and no access to their bank accounts in Sudan.”

Smoke rises above buildings after an aerial bombardment, during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
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Hundreds of people have been killed in the recent wave of violence in Sudan

Fatima Elabgari provides translation services and helps those arriving from Sudan. She told Sky News one local council gave a family an unfurnished home.

“The kitchen doesn’t have a single item. Not even a spoon.”

“I’m taking calls in the middle of the night to help people who fled with just a few basic essentials. I’ve worked with 62 families up until now.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have been working intensively to evacuate British nationals and their dependents since the outbreak of violence in Sudan, in a complex and highly volatile environment.

“Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads. When arrivals do not have immediate access to accommodation, councils may provide emergency overnight accommodation and support for people to move into longer term housing.”

UK nationals returning from Sudan can access benefits, social housing, and homelessness assistance even if they are not habitually resident in the UK.

Further to guidance issued by DWP on April 27, Sky News understands the government now intends to change the rules so that the Habitual Residence Test is disapplied to UK nationals returning from Sudan, subject to parliamentary approval. In the meantime, local authorities are advised to seek to apply maximum flexibility.

Around 2,450 people were evacuated via Wadi Saeedna airfield and Port Sudan since evacuation flights started on April 25.

The UK government concluded its evacuation operation on May 4 and announced that it will provide £5million of lifesaving aid to people fleeing Sudan.

‘I’m here baby, I’m here’: Husband reunited with pregnant wife in UK after fleeing Sudan | World News

Nagi held his wife Reem in a tight embrace for more than 40 seconds.

They were reunited at a hotel near Stansted Airport after he escaped violence in Sudan on one of the last evacuation flights out of the country.

Tears turned to chuckles when Nagi cradled Reem’s belly to talk to their unborn child.

“I’m here baby, I’m here,” he said.

Naji kisses his wife's belly
Image:
Nagi kisses his wife’s belly

The couple have been married for three years and had applied to the UK government for Nagi to move to live with Reem in Newcastle.

His passport and identity documents were with the British Embassy in Sudan when the war started.

“To be honest, I thought I’m doing my best but I don’t think this is going to work,” Reem told Sky News.

“They’ve been turning away people who are on work permits and who have biometric ID cards. So I thought they’re never going to accept my husband.”

Nagi and Reem embrace at a hotel near Stansted Airport
Image:
Nagi and Reem embrace at a hotel near Stansted Airport

Reem, a radiology registrar in Newcastle, turned to help from the British charity Goodwill Caravan.

“I received an email at 3am saying he could board the last plane,” she said.

“Nagi was, at the time, 10 hours from the airfield. By the time he got there the area was being bombed and I felt like I’d dragged him from safety right into war.”

Read more on Sudan:
Mayhem is unfolding on the docks of Port Sudan
Why evacuating civilians is different to diplomats

What’s happening in Sudan?

Nagi travelled 800km, spent $700 (£557) and went through six or seven checkpoints to arrive at Wadi Saeedna airfield near Khartoum.

“When I arrived at the airfield they put an X on my hand. That signals that a person can’t leave the country,” Nagi said.

The red stain was still on his hand as he told Sky News how his country descended into chaos.

There is a food shortage in the capital, he said.

There is also no electricity, confusion over fighters using fake uniforms, and dead bodies lying in the streets.

“There are witness reports of dogs ripping at corpses of people whose numbers may not have been included in the 500 reported to have died,” he said.

He added: “I would call it a ghost town.

“Nobody knows who is fighting who because there are reports that fighters swap uniforms.

“Businesses have closed, large populations are running away, and the worst thing is not knowing where we were running to and not knowing who we could run to.”

It comes as the last flight from Khartoum arrived at Stansted Airport this evening.

Sudan: Last minute call for Britons hoping to escape as UK rescue flights open up to foreign NHS doctors | UK News

British nationals seeking to flee Sudan had only until midday local time if they want to be evacuated from the war-torn country as NHS doctors without UK passports were told they can now catch final rescue flights.

The Foreign Office had urged those still in the African nation to travel to the Wadi Saeedna airfield near Khartoum by 12pm local time (11am UK time) in order to be processed.

The last flight is due to leave at 7pm local time (6pm UK time).

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More than 1,500 British nationals have so far been flown out. Pic: MoD

It is understood the number of Britons arriving at the airport had dropped dramatically ahead of the deadline with a “trickle” of people now turning up over several hours.

In pictures supplied by the Ministry of Defence yesterday, children were seen among those being helped by British forces.

More than 1,500 people on 13 flights have so far been flown out of Sudan.

Read more:
‘Death will come to you anywhere’ – mayhem at Port Sudan
Traumatised Sudan evacuees describe ‘horrendous’ scenes
Explainer: What’s behind the Sudan fighting?

A Whitehall source has also confirmed NHS medics and eligible dependents would also now be evacuated because there was spare capacity on the final flights.

Denying this was a U-turn, they said it was always the plan to prioritise British citizens before moving onto other groups when space opened up.

It follows criticism of the speed of the British evacuation, which was bought more time after a 72-hour extension to the ceasefire between the two warring factions was agreed on Thursday.

Despite the truce agreement, heavy fighting has continued between the army and a rival paramilitary force in the capital and surrounding areas, including strikes by air, tanks and artillery.

Tens of thousands have fled the violence between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which has derailed an internationally-backed transition towards democratic elections.

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Sudan: ‘It’s sheer chaos’

The deadly power struggle has also rekindled a two-decade-old conflict in the western Darfur region and threatens to trigger instability across the volatile wider region.

The fighting has led to food shortages, power cuts and forced many hospitals to close.

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At least 512 people have been killed and close to 4,200 injured, according to the United Nations, which believes the number of casualties is much higher.

The latest ceasefire, brokered by foreign powers, is supposed to last until Sunday at midnight, but both sides are accusing the other of violations.

Suella Braverman rules out introducing safe routes for Sudan asylum seekers after fighting | Politics News

Suella Braverman has ruled out introducing a safe and legal route for asylum seekers in Sudan to seek refuge in the UK.

Earlier, Rishi Sunak refused to commit to such a route when pressed by the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn during PMQs.

Asked whether the UK was going to “start looking at safe routes for refugees from Sudan”, Ms Braverman replied: “We have no plans to do that.

“Our focus, first and foremost, right now, and bearing in mind this is a fast-moving situation and a complex situation, is to support British nationals and their dependents.”

Sudan live: First Britons land back in UK after ‘chaotic’ evacuation

At least 300 UK citizens have been removed from Sudan, with the first plane load returning to British soil this afternoon after exiting the African nation via Cyprus.

A shaky ceasefire is currently in place in Sudan as people seek to flee violence which has left at least 459 people dead, according to the World Health Organization – although this figure is expected to rise.

Those eligible to come to the UK have been told to make their own way to an airfield near the capital Khartoum so they can be airlifted to Cyprus.

But there are concerns some may have to travel hundreds of miles to the coast if the threads of peace sever.

What’s happening in Sudan?

The potential for a humanitarian crisis – the WHO reckons only 16% of the country’s medical facilities are functioning – has led to calls for the UK to open up routes to asylum seekers.

Mr Flynn said: “To be clear, and I think everyone in the House [of Commons] is aware of this, children in Sudan are already dying.”

He called for “more humanity” in the debate from all sides, and then asked if it was the government’s plan “to detain and deport a child refugee who flees Sudan and comes to the United Kingdom?”

Mr Sunak said the UK has invested almost a quarter of a million pounds in humanitarian support in Sudan in the past five years – and noted the UK has welcomed almost 500,000 vulnerable people to the country in the “last few years”.

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Moment first Britons land back in UK

The question of how the UK will support potential asylum seekers outside of specific schemes like Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong has repeatedly cropped up as the government attempts to reform the immigration system.

This included a moment when Ms Braverman appeared unable to explain how someone wanting to claim asylum in the UK could do so.

MPs were today debating amendments to the government’s Illegal Migration Bill.

British troops fly into Sudan as UK works on evacuation plan for Britons | Breaking News News

A team of British troops have flown into a port in eastern Sudan on a reconnaissance mission as the UK works out options to help evacuate British nationals stranded in the crisis-hit country, Sky News understands.

The soldiers landed at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea on Monday.

A flight tracking website showed a C-17 transport aircraft heading in the direction of Sudan.

It does not mean any rescue is imminent, however, as the government is working out what are the best options to present to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to help thousands of British nationals, under fire in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

A British warship – HMS Lancaster – is also in the region and could be used to help with any rescue, according to Whitehall sources.

The more than 500-mile route to Port Sudan from the capital Khartoum is long and difficult.

Royal Air Force flights from a British airbase in Cyprus to a Sudanese military airfield outside the capital – a route used over the weekend to rescue British diplomats and their families – could be a more viable option.

However, any decision to order new evacuations will depend on the level of risk that the government is willing to take.

Read more:
How elite troops rescued UK diplomats

The UK could ask allies to help its citizens.

James Heappey, the Armed Forces Minister, said the military was working up a range of options 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 daring 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.”

Sudan: UK to begin evacuating diplomats from Khartoum as part of rescue mission | UK News

The UK will evacuate British diplomats from Sudan as soon as possible but other British nationals are being advised to stay put, despite deadly fighting in the capital, it is understood.

UK troops and military aircraft have been moved to an overseas base to prepare for what would be a high-risk rescue mission into an active conflict zone – in case the order is given.

The number of UK government staff at the embassy in Sudan is thought to be small, in the low double-digits, and any evacuation from Khartoum would be very limited in size.

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Incessant gunfire in Sudan’s capital

Other British nationals are being advised to stay indoors and shelter even as the Sudanese army launched new airstrikes against paramilitaries in the city on Saturday.

An eruption of fighting between two rival generals over the past week has left hundreds of people dead and forced residents to hide in terror, many without water and electricity.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have already launched evacuation missions via a port city in eastern Sudan on the Red Sea coast.

The international airport in Khartoum is closed and movement by road is perilous. It means escape from the country even with official assistance is very dangerous.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chaired his fourth emergency COBRA meeting on the crisis on Saturday morning.

Multiple meetings involving foreign and defence ministers and officials have been taking place over the past few days in a sign of the complexity and fluidity of the situation.

The decision to evacuate British government staff from Sudan as soon as feasible is understood to have been taken because of increasing attacks on diplomatic missions.

People prepare to flee the capital Khartoum during the clashes
Image:
People fleeing the capital Khartoum during the clashes

Read more:
Why has violence erupted in Sudan?
Dramatic before-and-after images show impact of deadly clashes

Sudan fighting: Here’s what’s happening on the ground

The UK says its priority is the protection of British nationals in the country, including through support from other UK embassies in the region as well as the foreign office’s crisis centre.

This appeared to be slim comfort for those stranded and under fire.

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‘We’re being shelled to shreds’, says British national

One British national, on a visit to Khartoum, said she had received no communication from the embassy after being trapped for a week.

“My only question is, if there is no plan to get me out, please tell me why,” Rozan Ahmed told Sky News.

The Sudanese military has said it will help the UK, France, the US and China, to evacuate their diplomats and foreign nationals from Khartoum.

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A Sudanese armed forces spokesperson said the countries planned to evacuate their people by air using military transport planes.

The UK has declined to give details on any rescue mission other than to confirm that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and Ministry of Defence are preparing for “a number of contingencies”.

It is not thought that any evacuation would be imminent.