Open letter to support Sudanese refugees seeking safety in Egypt

Chaos at the Argeen border crossing in Northern Sudan in late April. "It's chaos, people are sleeping in the open. No shade during the day" (social media)

ARGEEN / PORT SUDAN – May 16, 2023

An activist group published an open letter to urge the Egyptian government and the Egyptian Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR Egypt) to provide better support to those fleeing Sudan as clashes continue and the humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly. In Port Sudan, Red Sea state, a large number of Sudanese is still waiting to leave the country by air or by sea., a website dedicated to supporting the Sudanese, published an open letter to Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Shoukry and UNHCR Egypt Representative Dr Hanan Hamdan to call for more support to those fleeing violence in Sudan.

The letter can be read and signed here.

The organisation explains that “the clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces [SAF] and the Rapid Support Forces [RSF] that began in Sudan on 15 April 2023 are causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis on the Egypt-Sudan border”.

As “hundreds have lost their lives in Sudan, many remain at risk, and thousands have fled and are seeking refuge in Egypt,” the signatories of the letter ask the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and UNHCR Egypt “to ensure those fleeing violence in Sudan can exercise their rights under international law to seek and enjoy refuge in Egypt”.

“As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, Egypt must ensure that those displaced from Sudan have the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution and not to be returned to a country where they would be in probable danger of persecution,” the letter reads.

“We acknowledge the tremendous efforts of the Egyptian government to respond to the fluid situation at its border and support those fleeing violence in Sudan. As the crisis intensifies, the need for urgent action increases. Ensuring the needs of those in the border zone are met is of paramount importance.”

‘As the crisis intensifies, the need for urgent action increases’

One of the range of actions the group asks the Egyptian government and UNHCR Egypt to take is to “waive entry requirements for Sudanese and non-Sudanese nationals fleeing the conflict in Sudan, including the visa requirement for Sudanese men aged 16 to 49 and the requirement to carry a valid Sudanese passport”.

While Sudanese women and children do not require a visa to enter Egypt at land crossings, Cairo requires men aged between 16 and 50 to have one.

EyesOnSudan also asks those with temporary travel documents issued by Sudanese border authorities and those with non-Sudanese passports, including those with Sudan- and UNHCR-issues refugee documents, to be allowed to enter Egypt and seek asylum.

The group also asks the authorities to establish welcome centres at the Argeen and Wadi Halfa border crossings to provide refugees with food, water, shelter, emergency healthcare, and sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The humanitarian situation at the border crossing has been problematic since the outbreak of the violence on April 15.

Radio Dabanga already wrote about the dire situation at the Argeen crossing on April 27 with reports of long waits and no access to basic amenities.

A social media user wrote on April 30 already: “Someone needs to get into contact with the UN about the conditions at the borders. In the span of time I spent in Argeen four people passed away from the conditions there”.

‘In the span of time I spent in Argeen four people passed away from the conditions there’

social media user

Two weeks ago, Radio Dabanga reported that the humanitarian situation at the Wadi Halfa crossing into Egypt is particularly dire, and so are the situations along the border crossings to Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Several people, including elderly women and children, have died from dehydration, heat strokes, and infections and fevers, possibly from drinking contaminated water.

Port Sudan

“It is very important to provide aid, not only at border crossings but to people going through cities along the exit routes, where towners and villagers are sharing their meagre supplies with generosity,” the SDTU wrote at the time.

The safer cities in Sudan are witnessing significant overcrowding, supply shortages, lacking medical infrastructure, and cash problems as they are receiving huge numbers of refugees.

Port Sudan in Red Sea state is not only for Sudanese seeking safer havens within Sudan but also for those attempting to leave the country by boat or plane.

Sources in Port Sudan reported on Sunday that most of the stranded foreigners have been evacuated, except for those whose procedures have not been completed.

Journalist Osman Hashim told Radio Dabanga that a large number of Sudanese are still crowding at the airport and harbour of Port Sudan to demand their evacuation to the countries they work in.

One ship arrived in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Saturday, carrying 1,741 people including five foreigners. The Sudanese aboard had residency permits and work or visitors’ visas for Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states, Hashim explained.

The ship had departed from the port of Suakin.

With so many new inhabitants, the city needs to adapt. ‘Emergency exams’ for elementary school students will start on May 22 in Port Sudan, with the participation of 200 students from Khartoum, one student from El Fasher, and one from Kassala.