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Activists Call on Egypt to Ease Entry for Sudan Conflict Refugees

FILE - Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, carry their jerrycans of water as they walk toward their makeshift shelters in Adre, Chad on July 21, 2023.
FILE - Sudanese people who fled the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, carry their jerrycans of water as they walk toward their makeshift shelters in Adre, Chad on July 21, 2023.

With Sudan’s conflict now at the 100-day mark, advocacy groups are calling on Sudan’s neighbor Egypt to ease entry requirements for refugees, saying displaced Sudanese face a dire situation.

The Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, have been fighting each other since April 15, triggering a humanitarian crisis inside Sudan and neighboring countries.

The United States State Department said it stands ready to reconvene formal talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to end the fighting — but only if the warring parties demonstrate their commitment to uphold a May 11 Jeddah Declaration to protect Sudanese civilians and subsequent cease-fires.

The Jeddah talks refer to the U.S.-Saudi-mediated negotiations that started in early May with the goal of stopping the armed conflicts in Sudan. The United States adjourned the talks on June 21 as senior officials acknowledged, “The format is not succeeding.”

An estimated 3 million Sudanese have been displaced by the fighting, almost 2.5 million internally. The rest have fled to surrounding countries. At least 250,000 people have sought refuge in Egypt, and another 120,000 are stuck on Sudan’s side of the border awaiting entry, according to a report that advocacy organization Refugees International released on Monday.

“Instead of facilitating their entry, Egypt disregards refugee law and the Four Freedoms Agreement it signed with Sudan and has erected various entry barriers,” said Abdullahi Halakhe, Refugees International’s senior advocate for East and southern Africa.

The Four Freedoms Agreement, signed in August 2004 between Egypt and Sudan, covers matters related to freedom of movement along with working, property ownership and living arrangements.

Halakhe cited new regulations by Egypt on June 10 requiring all Sudanese citizens to obtain visas from the Egyptian consular office in Wadi Halfa or Port Sudan before crossing the border. Previously, women, children, and elderly members of families were allowed to enter Egypt without a visa.

Egyptian authorities said the move was to counter the forgery of visas and better manage Sudanese refugees’ entry into Egypt.

Refugees International called on Egypt “to lift requirements currently in place for Sudanese seeking entry, waive requirements for those who remain in Egypt, and expedite granting refugee status to those who wish to have it.”

The Egyptian Embassy in the United States has not responded to VOA’s request for comment.

Sudan’s warring parties continue to violate cease-fires as diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict through negotiations have not yielded fruit. More Sudanese are predicted to flee to neighboring countries for their safety.

FILE PHOTO: Man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023.
FILE PHOTO: Man walks while smoke rises above buildings after aerial bombardment in Khartoum North, Sudan, May 1, 2023.

“The SAF and RSF have not observed their commitments under the Jeddah Declaration, which played a large part in our decision to adjourn the talks in Jeddah,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA.

“We are continuing to closely monitor the conflict and any violations of the Jeddah Declaration throughout Sudan,” said the spokesperson.

Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called for an end to the fighting in Sudan amid serious concerns about the rapidly escalating numbers of displaced people.

“These figures are staggering; civilians who have nothing to do with this conflict are sadly uprooted from their homes and livelihoods on a daily basis,” said Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “This has to stop. It is time for all parties to this conflict to immediately end this tragic war. Pending this much needed peaceful dialogue, people must be allowed to leave conflict areas to find safety, whether within or outside the country, and be protected from all forms of violence.”

As more people continue to flee, displacement sites within the country and in neighboring countries are rapidly becoming overcrowded, UNHCR said.

The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum suspended its operations on April 22, and the Department of State ordered the departure of U.S. direct hire employees and eligible family members from the diplomatic mission.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken later said the U.S. is exploring ways to return a diplomatic and consular presence to the African country as soon as possible, the State Department has said it cannot provide routine or emergency consular services to U.S. citizens in Sudan due to the current security situation.

A State Department spokesperson said U.S. Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey and his team, now based in Washington and other African countries, continue their diplomatic engagements with regional and international partners to work toward a cease-fire and humanitarian access.

The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan.

On June 20, Secretary Blinken announced nearly $172 million in additional humanitarian aid for the people of Sudan and those in neighboring countries who suffer from the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The U.S. has provided more than $550 million in humanitarian assistance this fiscal year for Sudan and other countries such as Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic to facilitate the needs of refugees and people affected by conflicts in the region.