Wadi Saeedna airfield: where is Khartoum air base, What Three Words, how to travel there - government advice

The UK government has said the evacuation journey is conducted at British nationals’ ‘own risk’

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Hundreds of Britons have been evacuated from Sudan as the military races against time to bring people to safety before a ceasefire ends.

Flights began landing in Cyprus on Tuesday evening (25 April) and continued through the night, with more planned on Wednesday. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said 200 to 300 people had been brought out so far.

With British citizens, dual nationals and their dependents forced to make their own way to the Wadi Saeedna airstrip where the evacuation flights are taking off from, Braverman defended the UK’s response to the crisis.

But where exactly is Wadi Saeedna, and what is the journey there from the capital of Khartoum like? Here is everything you need to know.

Where is Wadi Saeedna?

Wadi Saeedna is on the northern outskirts of Omdurman, a city located on the western bank of the River Nile and linked to Khartoum by several bridges to its south-east. The airfield can be found using the GPS coordinates 15° 48 10 N, 32° 29 32 E, or by using WhatThreeWords: refusals.atom.herds.

Though the distance between central Khartoum and Omdurman is only a few kilometres, one Twitter user has said the airfield is “almost impossible to reach” from central Khartoum, given that street fighting and clash points in the conflict are rampant.

They added that they had heard other countries from the same airstrip, like Germany, France and Ireland, are sending authorities to escort citizens from their homes.

But British nationals have been told to make their own way to the site, with some fearing they will not make it due to a petrol shortage. Nationals have been warned that all travel within Sudan is “conducted at your own risk”.

A UK-born student attempting to flee Sudan said she does not have enough petrol to make the dangerous one-hour drive from the outskirts of Khartoum to the airstrip.

“I’m trying to get there. But the problem is the vehicles that we have have no gas, and the petrol stations are empty,” Samar Eltayeb, 20, from Birmingham, told the PA news agency. “There’ll be constant flights within the next few days, but if I can’t find gas to get there, then I’m stuck.”

As such, many British nationals are taking the much riskier option of attempting the over 800km (500 mile) journey to cross the border into Egypt. Those that have made it to the border have reported long waits while their passports are verified only to be stuck there while their passports are being verified.

“Crossing the border in itself is a humanitarian crisis, with almost no support from humanitarian agencies,”said another Twitter user. “We’re getting sent from a crisis to another crisis.”

How has the UK military taken over?

British forces are expected to take over control of running Wadi Saeedna from German troops, something which could require a larger UK military presence on the ground.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said 120 British troops have already been supporting the operation there, and the UK would take charge of the Wadi Saeedna airstrip near the capital from German forces, after Berlin said its final evacuation flight would leave on Tuesday night (25 April).

Wallace told LBC Radio: “The Germans are leaving tomorrow, and we will take over the facilitation at the airfield. And the reason the Germans are leaving is people have stopped coming in large numbers.”

He said only one nation can facilitate the airfield at a time, adding: “If the Spanish or the Italians or anyone else wants to fly, we’ll be the ones giving permissions effectively.”

The UK military could also be ready to use force if needed to protect the air base in the event it comes under attack during the airlift, although the troops are primarily there to help with logistics and providing air traffic control.

Announcing the completion of Germany’s evacuation efforts, the country’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said Berlin would not leave civilians “to their own devices”, in an apparent swipe at the UK’s approach.

She said that “unlike in other countries”, Germany’s evacuation had included all its nationals and not just embassy staff. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has defended the UK’s efforts, saying it was “right” that diplomats were prioritised “because they were being targeted”.

The UK government has not provided a map showing the location of Wadi Saeedna on its official advice page.

Passengers fleeing war-torn Sudan (Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)Passengers fleeing war-torn Sudan (Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)
Passengers fleeing war-torn Sudan (Photo: -/AFP via Getty Images)

What is the government’s advice for British nationals?

British nationals currently in Sudan should travel travel to Wadi Saeedna airstrip as soon as possible to be processed for the flight.

The government’s current advice:

“We can only evacuate British passport holders and immediate family members (spouse/partner and children under 18 years old) who are either non-visa nationals or those with existing UK entry clearance. This is defined as anyone with a valid UK visa / visa vignette in their passport, or a UK Biometric Residence permit.

“Seats will be allocated on the basis of vulnerability, starting with family groups with children, the elderly or people with documented medical conditions.

“Travel within Sudan is conducted at your own risk and plans may change depending on the security situation. We are continuing to work up other options to help British nationals wanting to leave Sudan, including at other ports of exit.”

For more information on the evacuation of British nationals from Sudan, head to the government’s foreign travel advice page.