The UK Minister for International Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, gave an update on the Sudan response.

The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP

Madam Deputy Speaker, with your permission, I will make this further statement to the House on the situation in Sudan.

This statement is on behalf of the Government and the Foreign Secretary who is attending the funeral of a close family member.

10 days ago, fierce fighting broke out in Khartoum. It has since spread to Omdurman, Darfur and other Sudanese cities.

As Members of this House will know, a violent power struggle is ongoing between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the situation in Sudan is extremely grave.

More than 427 people have been killed, including 5 aid workers. Over 3,700 people have been injured.

Before this violence began, the humanitarian situation in Sudan was already deteriorating. We now estimate that approximately 16 million people – a third of the Sudanese population – are in need of humanitarian assistance.

These numbers, I regret to inform the House, are likely to rise significantly.

Whilst the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces announced a 72-hour ceasefire from 0500 London time on 21 April to the mark the holy festival of Eid, it did not hold.

Given the rapidly deteriorating security situation, the Government took the difficult decision to evacuate all British embassy staff and their dependents to fulfil our duty to protect our staff as their employer. This highly complex operation was completed yesterday.

The operation involved more than 1,200 personnel from 16 Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Marines and RAF.

I know the House will join me in commending the brilliant work of our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence, as well as the bravery of our servicemen and women for completing this operation successfully amidst extremely dangerous circumstances.

I also want to pay tribute to our international partners for their ongoing co-operation in aligning our rescue responses.

And I want to express my admiration for the work of the Crisis Centre in the FCDO, where over 200 officials are working 24/7 and seamlessly across government to coordinate the UK response.

Madam Deputy Speaker – the safety and security of British nationals continues to be our utmost priority.

Our ability to support British nationals has not been impacted by the relocation of British embassy staff. The evacuated team will continue to operate from a neighbouring country alongside the FCDO 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.

Movement around the capital 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 judgement about their circumstances, including whether to relocate. But they do so at their own risk.

Ending the violence, Madam Deputy Speaker, is the single most important action we can take to guarantee the safety of British nationals and everyone in Sudan.

The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence and I have been in continuous contact with allies and key regional partners since the outbreak of violence to agree a joint approach to both evacuation and de-escalation of violence.

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister spoke to his counterparts, including Egyptian President Sisi and the President of Djibouti. The Foreign Secretary was in contact with the Kenyan President, the US Secretary of State and Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Sweden, Turkey, Cyprus and the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. The Defence Secretary engaged with counterparts in Djibouti, the US, France and Egypt.

I have spoken to the African Union and the Prime Minister in exile of Sudan, upon whom so many hopes rested.

Further escalation of this conflict, particularly if it spills over into neighbouring countries, would be disastrous. As we continue to make clear, there must be a genuine and lasting ceasefire.

Madam Deputy Speaker, we undertake to keep the House informed as the situation develops.

Today, all MPs will receive a second Dear Colleague letter from the Foreign Secretary and myself. This will hopefully help answer a number of frequently asked questions to assist Hon. and Rt. Hon. Members in supporting their constituents.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I will continue to be in close contact with the House and provide updates where possible in the coming days.

I commend this statement to the House.

Published 24 April 2023