UK urged to speed evacuation of hundreds of British children in Sudan


A British charity worker has called on the government to help evacuate his children from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, stressing that hundreds of people with the right to reside in the UK remain stuck in the conflict zone.

Alhussein Ahmed, 32, who works for the Merseyside Refugee Support Network in Liverpool, is concerned that the Foreign Office should be doing more to assist hundreds of people who have UK residency rights who remain stuck in Sudan.

His two-year-old daughter, Amna, has a British passport, and he was in the process of applying for a passport for his 10-month-old son, Shakir, when the conflict began in April.

His wife’s passport and birth certificate are with the Home Office, which has long delays in processing passport application forms. Without these documents, she is unable to take independent steps to leave Sudan to travel to safe nearby countries.

“We need another evacuation flight for the many people in Sudan who have British nationality or who have the right to remain in the UK,” he said.

“I’m so worried about my children that I can’t sleep at night. When you call you can hear planes and shooting, you worry you’re not going to hear from them again. Sometimes you can’t get through because they have no electricity to charge their batteries or there’s no network.”

Ahmed arrived in the UK as an 18-year-old in 2010, after his father had been sacked from his job as a teacher in Sudan because of his anti-government stance. He was granted asylum in the UK that year.

He has represented the Liverpool branch of the City of Sanctuary organisation, which offers practical support to new refugee arrivals, three times at meetings in parliament. “I’ve also worked for Liverpool city council as a community champion for their Covid health project. I’ve done a lot of work for this country, and tried to pay back the support I was given when I arrived as a refugee, but now I feel they do not want to help my British children,” he said. “The situation in Khartoum is very bad. There’s a shortage of food. It’s a tragedy there.”

About 2,450 British people trapped in Sudan were evacuated on three flights organised in the days after fighting broke out in April. Ahmed’s family were staying far from the airfield at the time, and felt it was too dangerous to attempt the journey.

In a written parliamentary question published earlier this month, Andrew Mitchell said about 800 British minors were not able to travel to the evacuation points on time. “We were able to assist an estimated 476 British children to leave Sudan and are aware of a further 300 children since confirmed as having safely left Sudan,” he said.

The Home Office said it was unable to comment on individual passport applications, but would be in touch with Ahmed to discuss how to return his wife’s passport to her.

Maddy Crowther from Waging Peace, an organisation supporting Sudanese asylum-seekers in the UK, said this was “not an isolated case”. “A lot of people are very critical of the UK for not realising the urgency of the situation. Family reunion cases need to be expedited while people are in this really difficult situation. There needs to be a more compassionate approach,” she said. “It’s crucial that he is helped to get his children out. It’s an unliveable, catastrophic situation, with dwindling food and water supplies; telecommunications and banking are frequently down.”

An urgent question was heard in parliament on Thursday on the rapid acceleration of atrocities in Sudan. The all-party parliamentary group on Sudan and South Sudan will meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation.