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Gunmen kidnap 18 refugees in eastern Sudan’s Kassala

July 5 - 2017 KASSALA
Human trafficking victims in Kassala, 22 Feb. 2017 (RD)
Human trafficking victims in Kassala, 22 Feb. 2017 (RD)

On Monday, unidentified gunmen seized 18 Eritrean refugees from the Refugee Commission office in Kassala, and took them to an unknown destination.

“Three heavily armed men stormed the reception centre of the Refugee Commission office in Kassala town, and tied up the guards. They then forced 18 refugees from Eritrea to embark a Hilux at gunpoint and left,” a source told Radio Dabanga.

“The reception centre was crowded with refugees waiting for the completion of their papers for the transfer to the El Shajarab camp,” he said.

Human trafficking and kidnaps of refugees in eastern Sudan has significantly increased in the past years, the source added.

In October last year, the head of the Kassala state police, Maj. Gen. Yahya Hadi Suleiman as well reported an increase, and said that at least 200 people fell victim to human trafficking in the state in 2016.

He said that many trafficking gangs kidnap foreigners crossing Sudan on their way to the north, and force them to pay ransom for their release.

Sudanese officials have often been accused of being involved in the trafficking. In December 2013, a report compiled by European researchers, The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond pointed to “a close collaboration between Eritrean traffickers and Sudanese security, military and police officials”.

Tackling migration

According to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), Sudan is one of the main transit countries of eastern Africans who want to travel to Europe by sea.

Funding by the European Commission to the Sudanese government earlier this year, to be implemented under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, contains a development aid package of €155 million, “to tackle the root causes of irregular migration in the country” and “improve migration management processes”.

Sudanese activists claim that providing such funds to Khartoum are futile. They say that the aid package is used to tighten the grip by the security apparatus on the population.

Police in western Omdurman, the western part of Sudan’s capital, reported on Tuesday that they seized three Land Cruisers “loaded with foreigners to be smuggled to Libya”.

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