‘EU-Sudan migration cooperation legitimises militia state’: Enough

The European Union migration mitigation programme is supporting Sudan’s “Border Control from Hell”, says Enough Project, which has closely followed the Sudanese militia assigned to control the borders.

The European Union migration mitigation programme is supporting Sudan's “Border Control from Hell”, says Enough Project, which has closely followed the Sudanese militia assigned to control the borders.

Large-scale migration to Europe has precipitated a paradigm shift in relations between the European Union (EU) and the government of Sudan, the activist Enough Project reports today. The organisation argues how EU support for the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) could worsen irregular migration to Europe and “embolden a regime and militia force that acts with impunity and now faces even fewer checks on its criminal behaviour”.

Through its funding packages (see information below), “The EU will assist the RSF and other relevant agencies with the construction of two camps with detention facilities for migrants. The EU will also equip these Sudanese border forces with cameras, scanners, and electronic servers for registering refugees”, according to Enough and German news magazine Der Spiegel.

The country's main paramilitary force – recently integrated into the Sudanese army and under direct command of President Omar Al Bashir – since 2014 have a track record as counterinsurgency force against the armed movements in South Kordofan, raids in dozens of villages in Darfur, and patrolling Sudanese borders to intercept illegal migrants.

In the past the Union has denied that its cooperation with Sudan would support the RSF – assistance will be “delivered at bilateral and regional levels through international agencies and NGOs”, the EU Delegation in Sudan said in September 2016.

The country remained one of the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International in 2016. As for the government's budget, the lion's share is spent on the defence and security sector (about 30 per cent): the RSF receives SDG3.2 billion ($476.6 million) compared to SDG828 million ($123.3 million) for public education in the coming year.

Porous borders

Enough Project stressed that the Sudanese borders are long and ill-controlled, enabling large numbers of migrants from neighbouring countries with economic challenges, conflict, and political repression, to pass. These migrants then embark on perilous journeys to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea: about 4,200 of them are believed to have drowned in 2016.

“[Fact is] that decades of civil war, economic mismanagement, and official corruption in Sudan have forced a generation of Sudanese youth into dire circumstances that are similar to those of the migrants from the neighbouring countries, including those in the Horn of Africa.”

Human rights

Sudan is a dictatorship with human rights abuses and the stifling of democratic pluralism, Enough states. EU officials have showed that they were well aware of the concerns about combating irregular migration together with such regimes. Their concerns in a document on the EU Trust Fund to Sudan included 'provision of equipment and trainings to sensitive national authorities (such as security services or border management) diverted for repressive aims; criticism by NGOs and civil society for engaging with repressive governments on migration (particularly in Eritrea and Sudan)'.

'Trainings also reinforce surveillance capabilities of Sudan to suppress its citizens.'

Local human rights advocates and several members of the European Parliament questioned the effectiveness of human rights provisions attached to the EU assistance package to Sudan after protesting Ethiopian refugees were brutally dispersed and arrested by Sudanese riot police in February 2017.

Critical voices of the EU-Sudan cooperation have pointed to the possible dual-use of the trainings in Sudan. The equipment that enables identification and registration of migrants will also reinforce the surveillance capabilities of a Sudanese government that has violently suppressed Sudanese citizens for the past 28 years, according to the report.

Enough: “EU members cannot advance peace, security, and human rights and they cannot stem irregular migration from Sudan and the Horn of Africa by directly funding a government that deploys a militia group that stokes violent conflict, commits atrocities, and creates massive displacement of populations within Sudan.”

Funds for Sudan

In April 2016, the EU said it would provide about €100 million (an estimated $110 million) to address irregular migration and improve living conditions of refugees and host communities in eastern Sudan. €40 million (about $42.5 million) from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is earmarked for a programme to better manage migration in the region.

On 15 December, the European Commission approved a package of 11 new actions under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to improve stability and address the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement in the Horn of Africa region. The €170 million ($177.28 million) package includes a project in three cross-border areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan. For Sudan specifically, three projects will address instability and forced displacement through improved access to primary education (with €22 million), strengthening of livelihoods in southern and eastern regions (€9 million) and enhancing nutrition of 400,000 women and children in northeastern Sudan (€8 million).

The full report Border Control from Hell by Enough Project

Related articles:

'Sudan security should focus on human trafficking, not on activists' (7 July 2016) 

EU: 'No support to Sudan's RSF' (6 September 2016)