Sudan: Causes and effects of the temporary suspension of UNHCR resettlement program

On the 15th of May 2018, Journalist Sally Hayden, in a report on IRIN news, revealed information on the corruption scandal related to the resettlement program of refugees, in the UNHCR office in Khartoum, Sudan.

Sally Hayden mentioned in her report that refugees who pay money and other bribes are given priority in the resettlement program. She has revealed its investigative report after she met refugees living in Khartoum and conducted interviews with them, in addition to the full testimony of others on the issue.

Although refugees were repeatedly complaining about those practices, it became almost clear to all people about the nature of activities of the UNHCR branch office, in Khartoum, after the report of the journalist Hayden, which revealed the scandals of the UNHCR office in Khartoum. After revealing the very embarrassing practices that refugees have been complaining of repeatedly, before the journalist Hayden revealed it lately in her investigative report, the Geneva-based headquarters UNHCR office in Switzerland issued a conclusive decision on the scandal through its official website, after three days of Hayden’s report. In this resolution, the resettlement program of refugees is suspended temporarily.

Following events

Journalist Sally Hayden breached the trust of her informants of her investigative report and published their details contrary to their agreement. All the people who provided testimonies which formed the basis of her report warned her not to reveal their names and identities. She did not care about the safety of the refugees. The names, addresses and case numbers of the informants were published in detail in her report.

As a result, a number of refugees were contacted by the UNHCR office in Khartoum and subjected to difficult interrogation and serious threats, they were told that their files for resettlement were frozen. Especially, an Eritrean refugee named Bisrat Habtemariam had sternly warned journalist Hayden to keep his identity unrevealed, while she was conducting the interview with him for fear of reprisal.

Three days after Sally’s report was published, and after the office of the UNHCR decision on the suspension of its resettlement program from Sudan, the UNHCR office in Khartoum called the refugees to its office and questioned them about their interviews with the journalist without the UNHCR’s office knowledge and how they knew the procedures and works of the UNHCR office. It also added that the information given to the journalist was not accurate and baseless, and the refugees were told that their questioning and interrogation by the UNHCR office will continue.

In addition to this, the Sudanese Refugee agency, Commission of Refugees (COR), a partner of UNHCR called the refugees related to the report and told them that it will stop all kinds of assistance and will deal very seriously with the issue of the journalist’s report about UNHCR activities in Sudan.

COR is the government body which is responsible for registering refugees documenting their names and, determining their refugee status as they arrive in the Sudanese territory. Then, it refers them to the office of the UNHCR. It is also known for its close and strong coordination with the Sudanese security apparatus, which implies that cases and information considered sensitive by the security apparatus could pose security threats to the refugees.

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