Heatwave kills dozens of Sudanese en route to Egypt

Sudanese crowding in front of the Egyptian consulate in Wadi Halfa, waiting to obtain a visa (File photo: RD correspondent)

Dozens of Sudanese people attempting to illegally cross the border into Egypt have died, many from scorching heat. Long waiting times at the border, compounded with difficulties in obtaining a visa, are pushing more people to take illegal routes into Egypt in hopes of reaching a more stable life.

Hospitals in Aswan, Egypt, reportedly received dozens of bodies of Sudanese people who died en route to the southern Egyptian city last week. This is not the first such incident.

Reports on the number of deaths vary. Medameek reported 24 dead, while Mada Masr cited up to 50. According to the Refugee Platform in Egypt (RPE), between June 7 and June 9, 40 people were killed, including children, women, and entire families. The number is expected to rise as more bodies are uncovered.

“Dozens of families have reported missing relatives, and dozens of injured people have arrived at various hospitals in Aswan Governorate. A family member of some deceased and injured survivors reported that the authorities informed them they are under police guard until they are forcibly deported to Sudan”, RPE stated.

On Sunday, the Sudanese General Consul in Aswan, Abdelgadir Abdallah, shared his condolences for the families and loved ones of those who passed away, adding that some died “from thirst, others from heat stroke, and some in traffic accidents”. He noted the dangers of smuggling between Egypt and Sudan, stating that those who resort to this method often do so because they are unable to obtain a visa, or because their residency in Egypt had expired. “Avoid using this method. Some areas in Sudan are safe; remain there.”

A medical source at a hospital in Aswan told Mada Masr: “Some of the bodies arrived with their skin peeled off and suffering from dehydration.” Survivors of the challenging journey told the news outlet that “dozens in the desert have no water,” and “entire families died because of the high temperatures and were left there.”

A mining company inspector in Aswan, working in areas intersecting with human smuggling routes, reported an increase in people found dead in the desert since last Tuesday. “Every day we find two or three cars on the road with people in them dead,” he told Mada Masr, noting that most deaths are from hunger, thirst, and sunstroke, including children and the elderly. He added that “many of the bodies are buried or thrown into the desert if they do not have a living companion.”

Egypt has been experiencing a heat wave since last Monday. Aswan Governorate recorded a maximum temperature of no less than 47 degrees over several days, with a peak of 49.6 degrees in the shade on Thursday, the highest in 18 years, according to the Egyptian Meteorological Authority.

Perilous journey

Soon after the SAF-RSF war broke out in Khartoum on April 15 last year, many Sudanese fled their homes, attempting to seek shelter in Egypt. The process proved extremely difficult, with reports of long waits and no access to basic amenities at the Argeen crossing. By April 27, more than 20 buses were arriving daily, a number that soon doubled.

Sudanese women, children, and elderly initially did not require a visa to enter Egypt, but men aged 16 to 50 did*. This changed in June when Cairo required entry visas for all Sudanese nationals. By September, thousands were still stranded in Wadi Halfa, awaiting visas from the Egyptian consulate. Many opted for smugglers’ routes to enter Egypt, leading to several deaths due to the lack of medical care.

The trade in forged Egyptian visas has reportedly flourished at the Argeen border crossing. In April 2024, Dabanga reported that thousands of Sudanese refugees who escaped to neighbouring Egypt have been detained by Egyptian authorities in a network of secret military bases and then deported back to their war-torn country, often without the chance to claim asylum. According to the International Organisation for migration, about 500,000 Sudanese people have fled to Egypt since the outbreak of the ongoing war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in mid-April 2023.


* In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the Four Freedoms Convention, allowing free movement of citizens between both “brotherly countries”, as well as working and owning property with no special permit. Soon however, it became clear that Sudanese men between 18 and 50 years old still needed a visa to be able to enter Sudan. In 2018, the authorities in Cairo officially requested a restriction on the entry of Sudanese to Egypt. On June 10 last year, after more than 200,000 Sudanese had sought refuge in Egypt from the war, Cairo decided to oblige all Sudanese to obtain an entry visa.

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