Human Trafficking: Taking Action and Appropriate Support and Protection

Sudan ratified the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, which supplements the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Human Trafficking in Sudan has been A major Issue Since the 1980s

Report by: Haffiya Abdalla

Last Friday, the Sudanese authorities announced the arrest of 63 illegal immigrant girls in the state of Gedaref (east), adjacent to the border with Ethiopia.

In a statement, the Sudanese police said, “The Anti-Smuggling Department of the Gedaref State Customs Police managed to free 63 girls from the victims (illegal immigrants).

This is due to human trafficking from the nationalities of one of the neighboring countries (which she did not specify) in the western Qalabat locality.”

The Sudanese Police said in a press statement, “The efforts of the Gedaref Police will continue and we will move forward in securing the border strip to eliminate organized crime.”

According to the Borgen Project, addressing human trafficking in Sudan even with recent efforts to eradicate human trafficking in the impoverished country of Sudan, progress is still necessary. The nation still receives several cases of child smuggling reports every year. To fully comprehend the severity of this issue, one must first look at the recorded history of human trafficking in Sudan.

History of trafficking in Sudan:

human trafficking in Sudan has been a major issue since the 1980s, and the country has since developed into a human trafficking hub. From child trafficking and trading to women’s sexual slavery, it has become increasingly difficult to combat the issue. Not only do traffickers traffick individuals at a concerning frequency in Sudan, but there is also a concerning number of underground trafficking operations.

Unfortunately, many cases in Sudan slip between the cracks of the more generalized definition of human trafficking. As of recently, an increasing number of cases involving the luring of victims under pretenses has occurred. For example, several human smuggling cases specifically have reported that younger victims received promises of false employment opportunities. In reality, the smugglers were transporting the children for child labor.

Human Trafficking and Poverty:

Domestic slavery, as well as sexual slavery featuring Sudanese women and migrants, is another form of human trafficking. This greatly contributes to the current socio-economic environment of Sudan. In efforts to deflate the national currency, traffickers sell and trade these people, predominantly women, and children, for ransom. Most of these cases also occur within the country’s borders, and many often witness their existence. Because of the frequency at which cases of human trafficking in Sudan occur, the general public shows signs of becoming desensitized.

Speculation has emerged that one may attribute the disparity between the number of human trafficking cases that occur versus the number of cases being reported to internal issues. The corruption of the Sudanese government, as well as the current economic state of the country, only increases the severity of the issue. Approximately 47% of the Sudanese population lives in poverty, which is an additional motive behind the traffickers asking for ransom.

Taking action as of 2014, however, the Sudanese parliament passed its first-ever act to recognize human trafficking: the Combating of Human Trafficking Act. In 2019, the country developed strategies to address and prevent human trafficking. The protection of victims, as well as the influx of resources going toward the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (NCCHT), has greatly improved the status of Sudan. According to the U.S. State Department, “Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) officials launched a unit to lead the government’s child protection efforts in conflict areas and provided training to more than 5,000 members of its military on child protection issues, including child soldiering.”

This act is working to prevent human trafficking has greatly benefited the overall development of the impoverished country of Sudan. Additionally, bringing awareness to the urgency of this problem is one of the first steps toward bringing Sudan out of extreme poverty.

In 2018, Sudan ratified the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

BMM supported the National Committee to Combat Trafficking (NCCT), which was established in 2014 to coordinate across ministries to counter human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants and to address victims’ needs more efficiently. Many migrants need help because of their irregular status, being exploited or abused, being dehydrated, or not speaking the local language.

Border officials, law enforcement officials, and members of civil society organizations (CSOs) received training through the BMM program to assist and respond to the special needs of these vulnerable migrants and refer them and victims of trafficking to appropriate services such as legal assistance, medical care or psychosocial support.

However, the overall protective framework still needs to be improved to enable safe migration. Relevant policies and legislation need to be reformed, infrastructure improved, and cross-border cooperation enhanced. In addition, effective referral systems need to be established to support and protect vulnerable migrants and victims of trafficking.
BMM’s approach and activities

The overall objective of the program is to enable national authorities and institutions to facilitate safe
Due to regional instability and its geographic location, Sudan has always been a major transit and destination country for people on the move using the main migration routes. Out of the country’s estimated population of 43 million, some 1.2 million are migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers (UN, 2019), the majority of whom are South Sudanese refugees.

Most of those who transit through Sudan are Eritreans, Ethiopians, and Somalis. Often out of necessity, many travel irregularly, meaning without a visa or valid documents.

This makes them particularly vulnerable to becoming targets of human trafficking networks which exploit and sell them for purposes of profit. Men, women and children are trafficked from, within, or to Sudan and need appropriate support and protection. In 2016, the European Union and Germany established the Better Migration Management (BMM) program to enable national authorities and institutions to facilitate safe, orderly, and regular migration, building on earlier progress made by the Sudanese Government.

In 2014, the Sudanese Parliament had passed the first law dealing specifically with human trafficking: the Combating of Human Trafficking Act. As a consequence, more cases of human trafficking were investigated and prosecuted. In 2018, the US Department of State noted in its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report” that the Sudanese government made key achievements during the reporting period.

According to Frontex, the European Border and Coastguard Agency, more than 2000 Sudanese nationals crossed the Central Mediterranean to Europe in 2018. It is also likely that many of the almost 4 000 Eritreans who crossed would have transited through Sudan.

It is the strategic position of the country that has turned Sudan into a hub for trafficking networks. According to the US Department of State, traffickers in Sudan have increasingly recruited men under pretenses of employment and children for forced labor. Additionally, Sudanese women have become vulnerable to domestic and sexual slavery. (Both domestic and sex slavery can be considered as forms of human trafficking.)

In August 2018, close to 100 victims of trafficking were rescued through Operation Sawiyan, which INTERPOL coordinated with Sudanese police officers. Some 85 of the victims were children. INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Tim Morris pointed out that the trafficked victims, who were likely migrants en route to Europe, were from diverse neighboring countries including Eritrea, Congo, South Sudan, and Sudan itself. The human trafficking networks had then diverted the victims into other secondary criminal activities.

In 2014, Sudan hosted a European Union (EU)-HoA inter-regional forum on migration, known as the Khartoum Process. The Khartoum Process is a political platform among EU, North and East African countries on the migration route between the HoA and Europe. Through its migration management program, the Khartoum Process is not only a platform for combating illegal migration but also prioritizes protecting from violence, abuse, and exploitation to those trafficked within and from Sudan and the rest of the home. Commitment from member countries is emphasized as key in achieving the outcomes of the process.


The office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons pointed out that the government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The NCCHT finalized and approved the government’s 2020-2022 national action plan in March 2020. In 2019, the government resolved unclear divisions of responsibility between the NCCHT and Higher Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (HCCHT) by disbanding the HCCHT.

Similar to the previous year, the NCCHT met at least three times during the reporting period. Authorities did not report whether the Kassala state government finalized its state-level action plan, which was drafted during the previous reporting period and intended to mirror the national action plan. For the first time in two years, officials held a workshop in September 2019 to raise awareness of exploitation in domestic work.

Ministry of Labor inspectors was responsible for providing oversight of recruitment agencies, but they did not report investigating or sanctioning fraudulent recruiters during the reporting period. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Officials did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.

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