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'Smuggled Syrians stopped at Sudan border': Egyptian media

March 15 - 2016 MARSA ALAM / KHARTOUM
This Syrian family fled to Egypt from the Syrian town of Qusayr (A. Blazy/UNHCR)
This Syrian family fled to Egypt from the Syrian town of Qusayr (A. Blazy/UNHCR)

Egyptian border security stopped 45 Syrians who planned to cross the border to Sudan after being abandoned by smugglers in a desert area, Egyptian media reported. Today marks the fifth year of the war in Syria.

The Syrians had lost their way in the desert near Marsa Alam after the human trafficking gang left them west of Marsa Alam. Border security stopped them on Monday. Egyptian media sources said that the group was handed over to the police to take legal action against them.

Today, Syria's war has reached “a grim milestone” of five years, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. An estimated 4.8 million refugees have fled their country since the conflict erupted. 120,000 Syrians have fled to Egypt, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in December. 

In October 2015, the UNHCR in Sudan said that more than 40,000 Syrian refugees had arrived in Sudan since the armed conflict erupted. The Commission said it intents to register the Syrians, after seeing the refugees coming to its headquarters and begging in the streets of the Sudanese capital.

According to Sudanese government statistics, the Syrian community in Sudan constitutes more than 150,000 people. Most live in good economic conditions, except for a few families, who have left everything in Syria and came with their sons, according to Khartoum.

Human trafficking

Smuggling and human trafficking has become widespread on the Sudan-Egypt border, but especially in the east of Sudan. Human traffickers systematically abduct Eritreans and Ethiopians from refugee camps in eastern Sudan. “Sudan has become a passage for illegal immigration and human trafficking has become a lucrative business,” Member of Parliament Mohamed Taher Osham recently said.

Last month, the European Commission announced a €100 million package for Sudan to support concrete efforts to tackle irregular migration. It is also a recurring issue among political parties in Red Sea, some of which have launched a joint committee to monitor smuggling crimes and raise awareness about the risks among people in Red Sea.

MP Osham represents Hameshkoreib constituency. He said that organised human trafficking networks in eastern Sudan are involved in kidnapping people for ransoms. The abductions take place in the border areas of Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Osham said. The hostages are hold until a ransom of thousands of dollars has been paid.

In one incident, a higher secondary school student in Kassala was kidnapped by gangs, and released after paying $10,000. The amount was transferred to a stock exchange firm in Egypt, Osham claimed.

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