Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis

Special Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
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Conflict, instability and economic stagnation in Sudan since the 2019 coup that toppled former leader Omar Al-Bashir have led to large numbers of Sudanese seeking refuge in neighboring countries. (AFP)
Special Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
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Egypt, already host to millions of refugees, faces the threat of another influx of refugees fleeing the war in Sudan. (File Photo courtesy of UNHCR)
Special Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
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People gather to get bread during clashes between the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and the army in Khartoum, Sudan, on April 22, 2023. (REUTERS)
Special Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
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A closed medical clinic and pharmacy are pictured in the south of Khartoum on April 24, 2023 as battles rage in the Sudanese capital between the army and paramilitaries. (AFP)
Special Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
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People fleeing street battles between the forces of two rival Sudanese generals are transported on the back of a truck in the southern part of Khartoum, on April 21, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 25 April 2023

Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis

Egypt braces for refugee influx as fighting worsens Sudan’s humanitarian crisis
  • Number of Sudanese seeking refuge has risen rapidly owing to conflict, political instability and economic stagnation
  • Already host to 4 million Sudanese, Egyptians fear they lack the capacity to absorb a new influx of displaced people

CAIRO: Egypt has long been a favored destination among refugees fleeing conflict, persecution and economic woes in countries across the Middle East and East Africa, either as a place of refuge or a stopover en route to Europe.

Now, with violence and chaos engulfing its southern neighbor, Sudan, authorities in Cairo are braced for a fresh wave of refugees in search of safety, employment and functioning health services. According to a report in the New York Times, more than 15,000 Sudanese have fled the Darfur region into neighboring Chad.

People prepare to board a bus departing from Khartoum on April 24, 2023, as battles rage in the city between the army and paramilitaries. (AFP)

On Sunday, 436 Egyptians were successfully evacuated from Sudan via land. Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said that evacuations would continue in order to ensure the safe and sound return of all Egyptian citizens.

Already home to a Sudanese community estimated at four million, Egypt offers few of the lucrative jobs that Sudanese migrants have traditionally sought in the Gulf region, but is considered an easier and often more familiar destination.

Due to its geographical proximity and shared history, young Sudanese can travel to Egypt cheaply to search for work, while families can seek health care, education for their children, and perhaps a stable life.

A view of the the Eshkeet-Qastal land crossing between Egypt and Sudan. Egypt has been bracing for an influx of refugees fleeing the raging fight in Sudan between the army and paramilitary forces. (AFP)

Although there are no publicly available figures to show recent migration trends from Sudan to Egypt, authorities say that numbers had been on the rise since 2019, when an uprising led to the overthrow of former Sudanese leader Omar Al-Bashir.

According to Naela Gabr, chair of the National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration and Trafficking, Egypt is home to about 300,000 registered refugees.

“In addition to the number of registered refugees, there are about nine million foreigners living in Egypt, of whom about four million are Sudanese and half a million are from South Sudan,” Gabr told Arab News.

Infographic from UNHCR Fact Sheet on Egypt for March 2023

“People suffering from political, ethnic or religious conflicts, the latest of which is Sudan, can obtain refugee status in accordance with the UN agreements related to this file. The agreements determine the legality of asylum, and Egypt welcomes any refugee from any country.”

However, owing to the financial burden and social pressures that accepting such large refugee populations can place on host nations and communities, many are concerned about Egypt’s capacity to absorb these numbers.

In this photo taken on March 17, 2011, African workers stuck at the border crossing between Libya and Egypt line up to receive food hand outs from the Red Crescent, amid a refugee exodus during the Libyan revolt against Moammar Qaddafi. Egypt is again facing possible influx of refugees as war rages in Sudan. (AFP file)

“As there are in Egypt a large number of immigrants who come to Egypt illegally, illegal immigration is a phenomenon that is difficult to measure, and it is difficult for Egypt to bear it during this period,” Gabr said.

The number of Sudanese seeking refuge in Egypt has risen rapidly in recent years due to repeated bouts of conflict, chronic political instability and economic stagnation in both Sudan and South Sudan.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Whereas in the past many refugees from across the wider region used Egypt and its Mediterranean coast as a jumping-off point for the risky journey to Europe, many are now choosing to stay, taking advantage of the country’s comparative stability.

“The number of illegal immigrants to Egypt will increase in the coming period, as Egypt was a passage for illegal immigrants, but it has turned into a stable country due to border control,” Gabr said.

This photo taken on January 5, 2014 shows thousands of African migrants who entered Israel illegally via Egypt demonstrating in Tel Aviv to dramatize their request for refugee status. Egypt has been a passage way for African migrants but many are now choosing to stay, taking advantage of the country’s comparative stability. (AFP file)

If Sudanese displaced by the current fighting begin to arrive in vast numbers, Egyptian authorities may have to consider establishing formal camps to prevent a humanitarian emergency or a security breakdown.

“If the crisis in Sudan continues and the situation there continues to worsen and becomes a civil war like the Syrian case, the rate of Sudanese refugees will increase by a large percentage,” Mohamed El-Sayed, an Egyptian commentator, told Arab News.

“If it is normal for 1,500 Sudanese to pass through the land crossing every day, the passers will be about 15,000, and then Egypt will have two options.

“The first option is to open the refugee gate without control, and at that time the state will be forced to put them in camps because the state is unable to absorb this number within the country.”

Egypt could be forced to open its border to Sudanese people seeking safety should the war in Sudan continue and the situation worsen. (AFP file)

As for the second option, “Egypt will then have to completely change its dealings with the refugee situation, and asylum will be in accordance with the UN agreements that regulate this matter.

“Egypt will not be able to absorb half of the people of Sudan, as the disaster will be great, especially in light of a severe economic crisis.”

Indeed, if the factional fighting in Sudan escalates, huge numbers could be forced to flee across the border. At least 400 people have been killed in clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces in recent days.

After Al-Bashir was toppled in 2019, an October 2021 military coup dismantled all civilian institutions and overturned a power-sharing agreement that had been put in place.

In this August 17, 2019, photo, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan (2nd-R) and Mohamed Hamdan Daglo "Hemeti" (3rd-L) celebrate the signing of the "constitutional declaration" that paves the way for a transition to civilian rule. After ignoring the agreement later and seizing power from their civilian partners, the two generals are on each other's throats. (AFP)

Following a massive public outcry, military and civilian actors signed a framework agreement in December 2022 with a view to returning to the path toward civilian-led democracy.

However, a power struggle between the two main military actors in Sudan continued despite the framework agreement, which had stipulated that the RSF would be integrated into the Sudanese Armed Forces.

Gen. Fattah Al-Burhan, head of Sudan's Armed Forces, leads the country’s transitional governing Sovereign Council, while his former deputy, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, leads the RSF.

Combo image showing soldiers of Sudan's Armed Forces led by Gen. Fattah Al-Burhan and members of the paramilitary RSF led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo. (AFP file pictures)

Al-Burhan’s Armed Forces had called for the integration to be completed over a period of two years, while Hemedti’s RSF was adamant it should take place over 10 years.

The current fighting in Sudan has aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation in the country. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, about 15.8 million Sudanese are in need of humanitarian aid — 10 million more than in 2017.

In February this year, even before the latest round of violence, the UN warned that more than a third of Sudan’s population would need humanitarian assistance in 2023 amid growing displacement and hunger.

OCHA said that about four million children under the age of five, as well as pregnant and lactating women, were among the most vulnerable and in need of lifesaving nutrition services.

Sudan was already one of the world’s poorest countries when the international aid on which it depended was cut in late 2021 in response to the coup that derailed its democratic transition.

In addition to conflict, hunger and malnutrition, Sudan is one of the countries hardest hit by climate change. Widespread flooding last year affected some 349,000 people, sparking a surge in diseases such as malaria, contributing to growing displacement.

Sudan is already packed with refugees from South Sudan and neighboring countries. Should the raging war escalate further, Egypt risks being a destination of more refugees. (AFP)

Economic troubles also deepened following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Circumstances in Egypt are also difficult with inflation running at its highest in almost four years, and almost a quarter of young people unemployed, according to the International Labour Organization.

Sudanese youth living in Egypt often end up working menial jobs in factories or as domestic help. However, they have a community they can lean on and can earn more than they would at home.

Also, members of the Sudanese community already living in Egypt say they feel a close bond to their Egyptian neighbors and are well integrated.

For many Sudanese refugees in Egypt who end up working in factories or as domestic help, the opportunity is much better than having none at all in their homeland. (Getty Images via AFP /File)

Abdullah Al-Mahjoub Al-Marghani, head of the Sudanese Higher Committee for the “Thank You, Egypt” initiative, founded by Sudanese expatriates, believes the community has been treated well.

“The initiative was launched by a group of members of the Sudanese community residing in Egyptian territory, and it comes as a source of pride and appreciation to the people and the Egyptian government for the efforts made for the Sudanese community inside Egypt and their treatment as Egyptian citizens without discrimination,” he told Arab News.

“The Sudanese people fused with the Egyptian people and became one fabric, which is a cohesion that extends throughout history.”


Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo
Updated 6 sec ago

Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

GAZA STRIP: Heavy fighting rocked besieged Gaza on Wednesday as aid agencies warned of looming famine and new talks were held in Cairo toward an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and hostage release deal.

The White House sent Middle East envoy Brett McGurk for renewed talks involving mediators and Hamas, a day after a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire was blocked by the US.

The UN World Food Programme said it was forced to halt aid deliveries in north Gaza because of “complete chaos and violence” after a truck convoy encountered gunfire and was ransacked by looters. Hamas called the move a “death sentence.”

Colombian President Gustavo Petro accused Israel of “genocide” after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had compared the Gaza campaign to the Holocaust.

In Syria, state television said an Israeli missile strike killed at least two people in Damascus, a claim Israel refused to comment on.

Violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank where the Israeli army said its troops killed three Palestinian militants during an overnight raid in the northern city of Jenin.

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
Updated 8 min 10 sec ago

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
  • The UK-funded aid was delivered by the Jordanian Air Force

LONDON: Britain and Jordan have air-dropped four tons of aid including medicines, fuel and food to Tal Al-Hawa Hospital in northern Gaza, Britain’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.
The UK-funded aid was delivered by the Jordanian Air Force.
“Thousands of patients will benefit and the fuel will enable this vital hospital to continue its life-saving work,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement.
“However, the situation in Gaza is desperate and significantly more aid is needed, and fast. We are calling for an immediate humanitarian pause to allow additional aid into Gaza as quickly as possible and bring hostages home.”

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan
Updated 32 min 9 sec ago

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan
  • 6m people face acute starvation, American envoy tells press briefing attended by Arab News
  • Assistant secretary of state on African affairs: ‘Continued fighting threatening the break-up of the country’

LONDON: US diplomats on Wednesday decried the deteriorating situation in Sudan, with the conflict there having displaced some 8 million people, according to the UN.

During a digital press briefing attended by Arab News, Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs Molly Phee said she is “deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation” and the risk posed by Sudan’s fractious military forces.

With 6.2 million internally displaced and 1.8 million having been forced to flee abroad, “the continued fighting in Sudan is threatening the break-up of the country,” she added.

“I want to underscore upfront that the United States doesn’t support military governance, and will continue as we’ve done for decades to support the Sudanese people against military repression, and in their goal of charting a democratic future.”

More than 7 million Sudanese are contending with food insecurity, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey said of those affected by food insecurity, as many as 6 million face the very real prospect of acute starvation.

Godfrey and Phee both urged the conflicting parties to stop fighting so as to facilitate badly needed humanitarian access.

Godfrey said: “There’s urgent need to facilitate humanitarian assistance; it’s only becoming more urgent by the day.

“This includes facilitating cross-border assistance ahead of the impending rainy season, which will make roads impassable.

“We’re pressing for Sudan-related action in the UN Security Council, and insisting belligerents fulfill obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Conflict erupted last April between former allies who jointly seized power in a 2021 coup: the Sudanese Armed Forces and its breakaway paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Efforts at broking a ceasefire between them have so far failed, as have efforts to ensure that they meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and international humanitarian law.

Consequently, Godfrey and Phee said neither party should participate in post-conflict governance as the US and partners, including Saudi Arabia, push for a restoration of civilian government.

Nor is Sudan the lone area of hostilities in the region, with Phee noting that during last week’s African Union Summit, the US had sought to reaffirm its committed support to those fighting against Somali militant group Al-Shabaab.    

“We consulted with our partners in the horn (of Africa) about how to focus on what we’re doing together to tighten up our effort to combat Al-Shabaab,” she said.

“That included discussions on helping Somalia develop. It was important also to speak with Somali partners about their continued focus on governance.”

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon
Updated 21 February 2024

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon
  • Their home is hit as Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling targets several towns and villages in the southwest of the country
  • US congressional delegation holds talks with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and other Lebanese officials in Beirut

BEIRUT: A mother and her young daughter were killed on Wednesday in an Israeli attack on the town of Majdal Zoun in the Tyre District of Lebanon’s South Governorate.

Khadija Mohammed Salman, who was said to be in her 40s, and her 5-year-old daughter Amal Hassan Al-Durr died when their house was hit. Several other people in the vicinity were injured and taken to hospitals in Tyre.

Majdal Zoun was one of several towns and villages in southwestern Lebanon hit by Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling. Others included Shehin, the outskirts of Alma Al-Shaab, Al-Dhahira, Al-Jabeen and Tayr Harfa. The most recent targets included Hula, Blida, Aita, Kafr Kila, and Khiam. Earlier, artillery fire that hit Ramia, Al-Naqoura and Alma Al-Shaab on Tuesday night caused extensive damage to crops, olive groves and buildings.

Hezbollah responded to the Israeli attacks within hours by launching 10 military operations against Israeli army positions. The group said its forces “targeted a military position of Israeli soldiers in the Evin Menachem settlement and another military position in the Shomera settlement,” as well as “two buildings in which enemy soldiers were stationed in the Avivim settlement, the Ruwaisat Al-Alam site in the Lebanese Shebaa Farms, and a gathering of enemy soldiers in the vicinity of the Al-Marj military site and the Zibdin military site in the Shebaa Farms.” It said it also targeted “the Metulla settlement and the positions of enemy soldiers there … achieving direct hits.”

Israeli media reported that “a missile hit a building in the Metulla settlement after sirens went off in this settlement in the Finger of Galilee.”

Israeli warplanes broke the sound barrier as they flew over the regions of Tyre, Sidon and Nabatiyeh, causing fear and terror among schoolchildren and families. Widely shared video footage showed teachers attempting to calm terrified pupils in a school by explaining that the sonic boom generated by the planes was just a loud noise and not an attack. Still, many people assumed the noise was caused by airstrikes or other explosions, given the ongoing Israeli attacks extending far into southern Lebanon.

A teacher from a school in Nabatiyeh said: “At first, I thought that a new raid targeted the village of Ghazieh, similar to what happened a few days ago, or that the raid was on Nabatiyeh, due to the intensity of the sound that hurt our ears. I used my phone to find out what was happening and it turned out that it was a plane breaking the sound barrier.”

Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi visited the city of Sidon where he chaired a meeting of security chiefs in the south. He said Lebanese authorities were “working with existing capabilities to help the displaced from the south.”

He called for “the south and Lebanon to be spared from the calamity of war” and said “the injustice to which innocent people are subjected is unacceptable.”

Amid growing diplomatic tensions between Lebanon and Israel, the Lebanese mission to the UN reacted to the Israeli envoy’s threats to “implement Resolution 1701 by force in the coming weeks.” Resolution 1707 was adopted by the UN Security Council in 2006 with the aim of resolving the war that year between Hezbollah and Israel. It called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and for all armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, to disarm.

The Lebanese delegation at the UN said: “The one violating Resolution 1701 is Israel, and its land, sea and air violations have been documented by the Security Council since 2006.

“The number of violations has exceeded 30,000, in addition to the daily attacks on southern Lebanese villages, which have led to the killing of dozens of civilians, the displacement of tens of thousands of citizens due to concentrated bombing, daily raids, the use of smart attack drones, and internationally banned white phosphorus shells, which destroyed more than 100,000 olive trees.

“Lebanon repeatedly confirmed, through the statements of its senior officials, that it never wanted a war and does not seek a war in the future. The country has also affirmed that it is fully committed to negotiating and searching for peaceful solutions that preserve its legitimate rights through the comprehensive and balanced implementation of the provisions of Resolution 1701.”

The Lebanese mission continued: “The threats made by senior Israeli officials promising death, chaos and destruction, including the statements of the Israeli representative to the UN, reveal Israel’s underlying intentions to expand the scope of the war and try to find a pretext to launch aggression against Lebanon.

“Therefore isn’t it time, Lebanon wonders, for Israel to give reason, logic and peace a chance instead of carrying on with its policy that relies on force, occupation, intimidation, killing and war?

“Lebanon asks the relevant UN bodies, especially the Security Council, to oblige Israel to stop its attacks and violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty, initiate negotiations through the UN to ensure full adherence to Resolution 1701 and withdraw from the occupied Lebanese territories, in order to work toward the desired political solution and preserve regional peace and security.”

A US congressional delegation held talks with several Lebanese officials in Beirut on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri said “he met a delegation consisting of senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons, accompanied by the US ambassador to Lebanon, Lisa Johnson. This visit comes in light of the continued daily Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon.”

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution
Updated 21 February 2024

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution
  • Condemnation from Cairo came after the US’ third veto of a Security Council draft resolution
  • Resolution was backed by 13 out of the 15 members — but the US vetoed it, while the UK abstained

CAIRO: Egypt’s leaders have warned that the UN Security Council’s repeated failure to adopt a peace resolution and ceasefire in the Gaza Strip was setting “a shameful precedent” for the body.

The condemnation from Cairo came after the US’ third veto of a Security Council draft resolution — proposed by Algeria on behalf of the Arab Group — demanding an immediate end to fighting.

The resolution was backed by 13 out of the 15 members. But the US vetoed it, while the UK abstained.

In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that obstructing the passage of a resolution “calling for a ceasefire in an armed conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 29,000 civilians, most of them children and women, is a shameful precedent” in the history of the Security Council.

It added that the international community had a moral and human responsibility to end the daily suffering of Palestinian civilians caught in the line of Israeli fire.

The ministry statement said: “Egypt strongly denounces … selectivity and double standards in dealing with wars and armed conflicts in various regions of the world, which has come to question the credibility of the rules and working mechanisms of the current international architecture, especially the UN Security Council, which is entrusted with the responsibility of preventing and settling conflicts and halting wars.”

Cairo would continue to demand an immediate ceasefire and safe passage for humanitarian aid in the Strip, while opposing any attempts to displace Palestinians outside of their territories, it added.

It also noted Egypt’s opposition to Israeli military operations in the Palestinian city of Rafah.

Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN, Osama Abdelkhalek, said: “(Cairo) calls on the Security Council and all responsible international powers to save the peace option ... through the immediate implementation of the ceasefire.

“This will not hinder the ongoing mediation efforts, but rather provide them with the appropriate conditions to succeed.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the latest American veto “clearly indicates its political and moral responsibility for the continuation of the war.”

He added that the US stance “undermines the credibility of the UN system and reinforces the state of paralysis witnessed by the UN.

“(It) provides political cover for Israel to continue the aggression in light of the international community’s inability to stop the heinous crimes committed every day against Palestinian civilians.”

Algeria’s draft resolution aimed to give priority to the humanitarian dimensions in a bid to save hundreds of thousands of Palestinians “who remain vulnerable to the Israeli killing machine, starvation, and disease if the war continues.”

In a statement, the Arab Parliament warned that the Security Council was failing in its duty to control international security and stability and pointed out that system reforms were required.