WADI HALFA –
The Sudanese stranded in Wadi Halfa near the border with Egypt are suffering from poor humanitarian conditions as the town is overcrowded, and prices are soaring. A visa to Egypt reportedly takes three months.
Osman Ali told Radio Dabanga from Wadi Halfa that about 5,000 people crowd daily in front of the Egyptian consulate to apply for and obtain a visa.
“The consulate obliges visa applicants to prove their financial ability to stay in Egypt. The entire procedure now takes about three months.”
Ali said that Cairo’s decision on June 10 to oblige all Sudanese to obtain a visa to enter Egypt* has seriously complicated the situation. “Entry procedures at the Argeen crossing have become even more complicated.”
Most of the stranded people reside in schools and government offices in Wadi Halfa, as a bed in a simple hotel amounted to SDG 3,000, he added. “The costs of renting a house have risen from SDG 10,000 to SDG 40,000, which is just an exploitation of the needs of the stranded.”
He also criticised the disparity in prices in the various shops despite the availability of Egyptian goods without customs fees, including bread made from Egyptian flour.
The source further warned of water and power cuts because of the increasing pressure on the town. “Water supplies used to arrive twice a week, but outages have increased due to the density of people in the town,” he said.
“Earlier this month, we witnessed severe cooking gas shortages as well, but the arrival of shipments from Port Sudan led to the easing of the crisis.”
The Wadi Halfa Hospital is overcrowded with stranded patients. “The dialysis complex is threatened with closure because its supplies are running out.”
“UN organisations have distributed food to the people stranded in the town once, he said.
In May, around 30 buses with fleeing Sudanese were arriving daily in Wadi Halfa. At the time, it was taking one month for men between 16 and 50 years old to obtain an entry visa.
Young Sudanese waiting at the border started free English language lessons for the waiting children.
UN agencies have estimated the number of people stranded in Wadi Halfa at 12,000.
According to the Egyptian authorities, more than 250,000 Sudanese have crossed the border since war between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces broke out on April 15.
* In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the so-called the Four Freedoms Convention, allowing the 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 still needed a visa to be able to cross the northern border. In 2018, the authorities in Cairo requested an amendment be made to some of the agreement’s clauses, including officially restricting the entry of Sudanese to Egypt.