Eritrean refugees in Sudan


Refugees in Shagarab camp frustrated with UNHCR resettlement programme.

Starting in 2017 there was hope among the refugees in Shagarab refugee camp, in Sudan following the reactivation of their resettlement application files to third countries. Refugees who waited for long in the refugee camps are the potential beneficiaries of this programme. In this programme refugees who have lived in the refugee camp for long and have big family members are given priority. Many refugees have since 2017 been informed by UNHCR office in the camp that their files have been in the process of being handed over to third countries who offered to host them. However, there are wide spread rumors among the beneficiaries that other people are being processed in their names which has created great concerns among the concerned beneficiaries of the programme. These are rumors that could not be confirmed but have caused real worries and frustration among the beneficiaries. And there is no information on the identity of the rumored beneficiaries of the alleged fraudulent acts nor nature of the corruption involved.

Shagarab refugee camp-image

So far no answers to such questions are available. What is known is that the process of resettling those who have applied has now been put on hold. And no explanation has been given by UNHCR as to why it has been put on hold. In the past 6 to seven years only a few refugees have practically moved to third countries under the resettlement programme. The refugees were resettled in European countries. The travels were organized towards the end of2017. These refugees were resettled after 4 years long waiting following the cancelation of their travels in 2014. In 2014 these families had made all the necessary preparations for travel but then their travels cancelled for unknown reasons. The concrete information available now is that receiving new resettlement applications and organizing travels are now on hold.

This way or that way the rumors that others are benefiting in the name of the real applicants for resettlement are wide spread and an open secret in the refugee camp. And refugees in the refugee camp also allege similar experiences in the resettlement process in the past.
As there is no security guarantee in the refugee camp, it is not possible to contact the UNHCR office in the Shagarab refugee camp to investigate the allegations. To get better insights the monitor had conducted an interview with a refugee who resided in the Shagarab refugee camp for more than nine years. Most refugees are not willing to provide information about conditions in the refugee camps fearing for their security. Only a few are willing to take the risk to talk and yet on condition that their identities are not disclosed. Now the number of refugees moving out of the refugee camp is in the increase and they move to Egypt taking a dangerous journey involving human smugglers and traffickers. The frustration with, and the loss of faith on the resettlement programme and process one of the main factors causing the refugees to take such actions.

Whether the alleged corruptions within the UNHCR office are valid or false, these allegations are causing the refugees to lose faith and trust on UNHCR and the resettlement programme resulting in frustration and desperation among the refugees leading to dangerous actions such as further migration which increases their vulnerability to abductions, hostage taking, rape and other abuses. Hence, The UNHCR take these allegations very seriously and provide information and updates about the resettlement programme, process and about the delays.
Rounding up of Eritreans in Kassala town

On the 14th and 15th of May 2018, police in the border town of Kassal conducted rounding up of Eritrean refugees who do not have residence permits in the city. The refugees who were rounded up were released upon paying a sum of money and were ordered to apply for residence permit in the Kassala town immigration office.  However, most of those released have ignored the order for they need to pay 2300 Sudanese pound (1USD= 18 Sudanese pound) which is not a small money for refugees to get that amount  As the result they are likely to be subjected to other cycles of rounding up and paying for their releases. To the contrary, Ethiopians are living in peace because they are holding residence permits in the city. The Eritrean refugees are becoming victims of repeated rounding ups, detentions and financial fines as the result of ignoring adhering to the laws of the country and are becoming good source of income to the Sudanese police.

It is a common practice that Eritreans are being rounded up and detained in other Sudanese towns too. Particularly in the city of Kartoum. However, in the City of Khartoum, as most Eritrean refugees have residence permits, they do not stay in detention for long. However, as the behavior of the Eritrean refugees in Kassala is different, there is need for awareness raising campaign to help Eritrean refugees improve their understanding regarding Sudanese laws. But conducting campaigns is also difficult because it needs authorization from the government. The target of the rounding ups are usually the Christian (Habesha) Erirtreans and Ethiopians living in the towns/cities.
Disappeared but found
It was reported in the month of April this year that the whereabouts of five Eritreans who were in move fleeing Eritrea to Sudan through the Karora crossing was unknown. Through information obtained from their family members, it was reported that they were seen in the Sudanese territory before they lost contacts. Now it is learned that they had been held in detention by the Sudanese security forces for more than a month. But after a month of detention they have been released and the four have been transferred to the Shagarab refugee camp while the other has traveled to Port Sudan city. The one who traveled to Port Sudan city was not allowed to apply for asylum because it was found in his possession a document that testifies he had paid 2% tax to the Eritrean government, a tax imposed on the Eritrean diaspora by the Eritrean government. He was released after paying 500 Sudanese pounds (1USD = 18 Sudanese pound).
As the Karora route is very remote and desolate, often many people disappear while traveling to escape from Eritrea to Sudan. The karora area is desert hence the escapees face drinking water problems and dehydration. And as a result a considerable number of people die while traveling to Sudan. In the past year alone more than 10 Eritrean youths have been reported to have died while traveling to Sudan from unknown causes

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