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British Citizens Fleeing From Sudan Left Unsupported in UK

British citizens evacuated from Sudan say they were left with nowhere to go on their immediate arrival in England after being unable to access support.

Reefat Hassanin slept in a police station when a hotel said it had no knowledge of a Foreign Office booking.

Sumer and her family said they were also unable to find council support.

Bristol City Council, which manages emergency accommodation, has since found them both somewhere to stay and said Bristol was a “city of sanctuary”.

Mr Hassanin and Sumer’s family appear to have been impacted by government guidelines which mean those with a British passport do not qualify for emergency accommodation if they have been out of the country for an extended time.

The government said it was trying to change the rules for people fleeing fighting in Sudan but that would take time.

Mr Hassanin said he was told he had been booked into a hotel in Bristol on Sunday after being evacuated from Sudan, but when he arrived the hotel said it had no details of a booking in his name and he was turned away.

He said he had no phone number to call for assistance and that left him with nowhere to go, so he ended up going to a police station to ask for help.

“I went to the police station at three o’clock in the morning. I explained to the police and they gave me some biscuits and water. I have nobody here,” he said.

Sumer, 18, and her five siblings, including three-year-old Sarah, saw the conflict in Sudan up close, sheltering from bullets in their home before being able to return to Bristol, where they used to live before moving to the African nation.

“Some of the shooting was right in front of our house and we were on the floor for two hours.

“It was really hard. Some of the bullets came into our house and it was really bad,” she said.

Sumer had been studying at university and said life was good in Sudan but everything changed when fighting broke out, which had left her family living in a warzone.

As they are British citizens they were airlifted out by the RAF.

At first they were given food and somewhere to stay by government agencies but found the council could not help with emergency accommodation when they arrived in Bristol.

Both families initially relied on the kindness of the city’s Sudanese community to give them a place to stay, but have now been found emergency accommodation by Bristol City Council.

A council spokesperson said government guidance had changed and local authorities should apply a “flexible approach” to the Habitual Residence Test.

“Bristol is a City of Sanctuary and we will always do what we can to support those fleeing conflict,” they said.

“We will assess whether UK nationals returning to Bristol from Sudan are homeless and in priority need. Families with dependent children are automatically in priority need under homeless legislation.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have been working intensively to evacuate British nationals and their dependants since the outbreak of violence in Sudan.

“Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.”

Source : BBC