Sudanese paramilitary forces have announced the arrest of more than 300 illegal immigrants who were heading to Libya across the desert in the Northern state. The forces have been deployed to combat human and drugs trafficking by criminal networks.
The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) arrested the immigrants when combing the western desert on the Sudanese-Libyan border, Commander Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Hemeti told the pro-government television channel Al Shrooq on Monday.
The combing operations in the desert are going “as planned by the top leadership”, Hemeti said. He added that his forces “were deployed in all locations to secure and protect the Sudanese economy”. All crossing points into Libya from Northern state have been closed by the RSF.
The RSF has been deployed in the north of Sudan since last June after the state authorities complained about drugs and human trafficking by criminal networks.
Northern State Governor Ali El Awad said on television that the RSF is deployed to combat crime. He stressed that the principal objective of the paramilitaries is providing humanitarian support and security.
The nationalities of the arrested immigrants are so far undisclosed.
According to the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR), Sudan appears to be one of the main transit countries of Eritreans and Somalis who travel to Italy by sea – two of the largest groups of immigrants arriving in Europe.
Recent funding by the European Union to the Sudanese government, to be implemented under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, contains the development aid package of more than €100 million, to tackle the root causes of irregular migration in the country.
Another €40 million is appointed to improve the process of migration management in Khartoum. An additional €15 million should improve the living conditions of refugees and host communities in eastern Sudan and Khartoum and strengthen the capacity of local authorities.
But the EU policies in the campaign against illegal immigration and human trafficking by providing such funds to African governments, is futile, say Sudanese activists.
'The real challenge will be the implementation of this package.'
Speaking to Radio Dabanga last week, civil rights activist Hafez Ismail said that the funds might be used to tighten the grip by the security apparatus in Sudan on the population, pointing to the possible construction of detention centres and isolation of the refugee camps in eastern Sudan.
Following the announcement of the funding package under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said that “the real challenge in the coming months will be the implementation of this package.
“I received a firm commitment of the Sudanese authorities to remove all obstacles and facilitate access, visas and travel permits to areas where EU projects will be implemented,” the EU Commissioner stated on 6 April.
Opposition parties in eastern Sudan have demanded the spending of the funding to be overseen by the EU, fearing that the money might enter into the pockets of corrupt groups in Sudan.
According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) thousands of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants from neighbouring countries are at risk of being trafficked every year. Most vulnerable are newly-arrived asylum seekers of Eritrean origin who arrive in eastern Sudan.