At least 10 refugees have died as a result of an attack in southern Khartoum, according to the UN and other sources.
A bombing took place on Sunday at an area where refugees were staying, according to a Sudanese filmmaker who had friends there. Some of the victims were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he said.
Refugees, who fled wars and dictatorships in countries including neighbouring Ethiopia and Eritrea, have previously told The Irish Times that they feel they have been left without proper assistance since fighting erupted on April 15th.
Last year, Sudan was said to be hosting more than 1.14 million refugees from other countries. Some were hoping to be resettled to Europe or North America through the UN. Now, many cannot leave Sudan due to a lack of documents and meagre financial resources.
About 1.2 million people have been displaced and 400,000 people have crossed into neighbouring countries since fighting between the Rapid Support Force paramilitary group and the Sudanese army began.
“Refugees are still awaiting a humanitarian service in Khartoum that will resettle or relocate [them] in another country, not in Sudan,” said an Ethiopian refugee who has lived in Khartoum for decades and remains there, despite the war. He has sent The Irish Times sporadic messages since the fighting started, pleading for help and saying he is frightened to go to a refugee camp. Most refugees remaining in Khartoum now are old people and children, who are particularly vulnerable, he says. “If urban refugees are forced to relocate to refugee camps in Sudan, many of them could die,” he said. The man, who asked not to be named for security reasons, is constantly worried about losing contact due to a lack of electricity and problems accessing data.
Faith Kasina, a regional UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson, said the agency is concerned about the safety and wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers in Khartoum. She estimated that there are fewer than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers left in the city, down from more than 300,000 before the war started, but said due to “security conditions and movement restrictions”, it is hard for the agency to get an “accurate picture”.
UNHCR cannot help them get out of Khartoum, she said. “Refugees who left Khartoum have done so independently and while some obstacles existed, reports have indicated that routes to the south and to the east are passable for those fleeing,” she said. “Our humanitarian efforts are now focused towards regions where security conditions allow for our operations to take place effectively, including Gezira, Gedaref, Kassala, Red Sea and White Nile states.” She said UNHCR is also moving 3,500 refugees from Madani, a city southeast of Khartoum, to camps in Gedaref, in Sudan’s east.
The Irish Times has received various reports from refugees that some Eritreans who go east have been forcibly returned to Eritrea, a dictatorship known internationally for its brutal human rights record.
Kasina said UNHCR is aware of those reports, though “we do not have any confirmed information that this has occurred. We have raised the issue with Sudanese authorities who have assured us that no one is being or will be forced to return to their home countries. We are also monitoring border crossings for any indications of involuntary return of refugees.”
The pre-existing sprawling, remote refugee camps in eastern Sudan are “relatively safe” and assistance is being provided there by UNHCR and other organisations, Kasina said.
An Eritrean refugee, who also asked not to be named for security reasons, told The Irish Times he travelled east from Khartoum after the conflict started and is renting accommodation with money sent by relatives in Canada but he will avoid entering a camp. “I will never go there because I know how bad it is,” he said. He is worried about human trafficking, disease, the risk of ethnic conflicts, harassment from security forces and the lack of clarity around their future. “I could live there for years and there is no communication since it’s a remote area and, of course, [there is] bad healthcare. It’s rainy season now and all that they have got are tents and there are a lot of snakes and scorpions. The war is in Khartoum but, eventually, will end up here,” he said.
“People need to be resettled to other camps in countries that don’t have conflicts.”