Nine illegal Sudanese immigrants have died and 319 are in poor condition in the Sudanese-Libyan desert, after being abandoned by smugglers, the Sudan Armed Forces said on Wednesday. “They were on their way to Libya,” army spokesman Col. El Sawarmi Khaled Saad said.
“The smugglers left them in the desert… on the border between Sudan and Libya,” Saad told AFP, adding that the nine dead were Sudanese. The others are from various nationalities and include Ethiopians, Eritreans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.
Sudanese and Libyan troops rescued the 319 migrants in a joint operation, the army spokesman said in a statement posted on the Ministry of Defence’s website. The survivors were found in a dire health condition. They were gathered at the Karib El Tom station, where they received the necessary assistance and first aid. “Nine of them had died and the others are in a bad condition. They are getting treatment and being transferred to Dongola”, a town about 500km northwest of Khartoum.
Major migration route
The loosely governed desert region stretching from eastern Sudan up through Egypt to its Sinai peninsula is a major route for African migrants trying to flee in search of a better life. Thousands of Eritreans make the journey each year. “They would try to cross the Mediterranean Sea via Libya,” a source told AFP. According to official data, some 600 refugees from authoritarian Eritrea alone make their way to neighbouring Sudan each month. “The majority of them wants to continue onwards,” the source said.
The Sudanese government has continued to warn citizens who wish to travel to Libya against human traffickers, and underscores the risks faced by illegal immigrants, including getting lost in the desert which results in many dying of thirst.
Sudan colluding with traffickers
Economic migrants or refugees often rely on smugglers. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report in February accused Egyptian and Sudanese security officers of colluding with traffickers suspected of holding Eritrean migrants for ransom, and torturing them. Amnesty International said last year that Eritrean refugees kidnapped in Sudan are raped, beaten, chained up and sometimes killed after being forcibly transported to Egypt’s Sinai, where they are held for ransom. The London-based watchdog said it received “numerous reports” since 2011 that residents of the Shagarab refugee camp in Sudan’s Kassala state, near the Eritrean border, had been abducted.
HRW reported in February it had documented eight cases in which Sudanese police and Sudanese military handed Eritreans directly to traffickers who then abused them. In some cases, this happens inside police stations. In 2012 and 2013, Sudanese authorities prosecuted 14 cases involving traffickers in eastern Sudan, and four officials for colluding with them.
‘Combat human trafficking’
Sudanese officials in the border region with Eritrea have appealed to the European Union (EU) to help combat human trafficking. “We are confronted by organised groups,” Kassala Governor Mohamed Yousef Adam told EU ambassadors last November. “And we need your help on this.” EU ambassador Tomas Ulicny told the Governor: “This is really an area which we want to cooperate more with Sudan and with all neighbouring countries.”
(Sources: AFP, Sapa, Sudan Tribune)
File photo: Pieces of clothing left by African immigrants hang tangled in the wire of the Egyptian-Israeli border fence. African immigrants, mainly from Sudan and Eritrea, continue to cross into Israel, despite the fence. (2012, EPA)
Sudan police hand Eritrean refugees to traffickers to torture: report (11 February 2014)
‘Sudan’s top officials cooperate in human trafficking’: report (5 December 2014)