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Sudan fighting: Oxford family turned away at evacuation point

By Bethan Nimmo BBC News


An Oxford family has described the journey they made to an airfield in Sudan only to find they were not all eligible to be rescued.

Niam Ali, her two-year-old son Yousif, and husband Mohammed Yassien fled their home in Khartoum to get an RAF flight.

At one point, Mr Yassien was held at gunpoint, but his life was spared because he had a family.

The UK government said many people were facing "very challenging circumstances and decisions".

Clashes between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group and the Sudanese army began on 15 April.

Mrs Ali and her son both hold British passports, but her husband has a Sudanese passport and no visa.

This meant once they reached the final checkpoint for the evacuation flight they were turned away.

Mrs Ali lives in Oxford and works as a locum pharmacist, but regularly travels with her son to visit her husband as he helps run a family business in Sudan.

The couple had travelled to the countryside with Yousif for safety, but changed their plans after hearing British nationals were being evacuated from the Wadi Saeedna airfield.

They had to stop at checkpoints set up by the RSF along the way, but at one an officer fired a gun at the family's car to signal them to stop.

Mrs Ali said: "I ducked over my son, my husband stopped the car and the soldier makes him get out and starts shouting at him, he made him lay on the ground at gunpoint.

"I don't know how my son managed this, but he started to greet the guy and mess around with him. At that point he calmed down a bit and just said: 'Make sure to not let your father speed,' then he let us go."

When the family arrived at the airfield they were told they could enter after showing all their passports, but had to leave a lot of their luggage behind. They were then told there would not be another flight until the morning.

Mrs Ali said: "There was no where for us to sleep, we were outside the entire time and ended up sleeping on the gravel, they gave us a cardboard box for our son."

After waiting more than five hours to get to the final security check the next morning, an officer refused them entry, explaining Mr Yassien did not have a visa and so could not fly.

"At that point, my whole world came crashing down," Mrs Ali said.

"I couldn't leave him that wasn't an option, the only way he wasn't attacked on our way to the airport was because we were a family."

The family used the last of their fuel to travel back to Khartoum, where they are waiting for more information, but limited shops are open for food, there is still no power and those involved in the fighting are also stealing cars.

"If my husband goes out on foot to try and get us food, he has to take a knife or a sword with him to protect himself because there's gang violence," Mrs Ali added.

In a statement, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said: "We recognise there will be many people facing very challenging circumstances and decisions.

"We continue to work intensively alongside international partners to maintain the ceasefire and bring an end to the fighting - the single most important thing we can do to ensure the safety of British nationals and others in Sudan."


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