Stranded Sudanese NHS doctor given seat on evacuation flight

Dr Abdulrahman Babiker in the departure area of an evacuation airport near Khartoum

Abdulrahman Babiker being interviewed by the BBC as he waits to be evacuated near Khartoum

An NHS doctor who felt “betrayed” after being refused a place on a UK evacuation flight from Sudan has now been given a seat.

Abdulrahman Babiker is awaiting a flight at an airport north of Khartoum.

He told the BBC he was delighted to be leaving the country but had mixed feelings about family left behind.

He was initially turned away by officials on Thursday – he has a UK work permit but only UK passport holders were being accepted.

Earlier, the Foreign Office had said it was prioritising UK nationals and those in Dr Babiker’s situation needed to make their own way to the UK.

Khartoum International Airport has been shut for almost two weeks due to fighting between two warring factions, while the borders of neighbouring countries are hundreds of miles away from the capital.

It is thought at least 24 Sudanese NHS doctors were in a similar position to Dr Babiker.

He credited the public attention his story received with the apparent change in policy.

“I got so much support from my colleagues at the hospital, from friends…. everyone knew the case,” the Manchester Royal Infirmary doctor told the BBC.

Despite his relief, he said he still had “mixed feelings” at leaving, as many family members are still in Khartoum.

While Dr Babiker said he felt “much better” now that he knew he was able to leave, he said the “risk” his family and friends are in has left him unable to sleep.

For almost two weeks, rival factions within the Sudanese military have fought for control, destroying large sections of the capital Khartoum in the process and killing hundreds of civilians.

While Dr Babiker has now been allowed a seat on an evacuation flight, it is not currently clear if there has been an explicit change in government policy.

Dr Babiker said he felt there was a definite difference in approach and he hoped that the UK government would rethink its policy on visas, especially when it comes to skilled workers, something he said which “needs to be re-evaluated”.

He said he had heard of other doctors having a similar experience, and that others he was in contact with had already been flown out of Sudan and landed in Cyprus. The UK has a military air base on the island and is flying people back to Britain from there.

The BBC has approached the Foreign Office for comment and is awaiting a response.

Additional reporting by Alex Binley

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