Foreign Presence in Sudan: A Ticking Bomb

Muawad Mustafa Rashid

The foreign presence in Sudan has become a great concern due to its negative social, economic, and security impacts on Sudanese society.

Historically, Sudan has always been the place where different ethnic groups, tribes, religions, and cultures converged and coexisted.

Sudan is a transit point in the Eastern African Migratory Route into North Africa and towards Europe as well as west into Yemen and the Gulf States.  Sudan is also a hub for the northeastern route for nearly all Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Somali migrants who intend to cross over into Europe relying on the services of unscrupulous brokers.

Terrorist groups are also known to operate in Sudan and these groups seek opportunities to carry out attacks, which include suicide operations, bombings, and kidnapping. Human mobility is not only a consequence of conflict but also caused by ongoing tension between the different armed groups. Displacement in Sudan is also connected to the exploitation of resources that has disrupted traditional migratory routes, intertribal competition over water and land use, and infrastructural and economic development projects that have caused urbanization and large-scale population movement. 

In 2013, the number of international migrants in Sudan was 446,707, with the top 5 countries of origin in order of population being Eritrea (more than 30%), South Sudan (roughly 18%), Chad (approximately 17%), Ethiopia (about 14%), and Nigeria (around 3%). Conversely, in 2019 the number of international migrants had risen to over 1.2 million, and the majority of the international migrants in Sudan were from South Sudan (approximately 750,000) substantially outnumbering the next largest population of around 200,000 Eritreans. The third, fourth, and fifth top countries remained the same and in the same order of population: Chad, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. 

Regional instability affecting bordering countries has led to an increasing number of people seeking asylum in Sudan. As of December 31, 2020, Sudan was hosting 1,056,326 refugees and asylum seekers. Refugees are hosted in the states of Khartoum (28.9%), White Nile (25.4%), Kassala (11.8%), East Darfur (6.4%), West Kordofan (5.9%), Gedaref (5.1%), South Darfur (4.9%), South Kordofan (3.6%), North Darfur (2.3%), and Al Gezira (1.7%). These refugees are mainly from neighboring countries: South Sudan (736,685), Eritrea (122,465), the Syrian Arab Republic (93,498), Ethiopia (69,849), the Central African Republic (26, 930), Chad (3,507), and Yemen (1,938). The South Sudanese refugee population nearly doubled since 2018 and many of them remain vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. Sudan is also witnessing a recent influx of Ethiopian refugees fleeing violence in Tigray, with over 60,000 refugees as of January 17, 2021. A total of 30,771 refugees have been relocated from Hamdayet and Abdrafi and Village 8 to the refugee camps at Um Raquba (20,572 people) and Tunaydbah (10,199 people).

According to the last revealed official statistics from the Foreigners’ Directorate in the Ministry of Interior, about 8 million foreigners in Sudan entered illegally to the country among them 3 million Ethiopians, 2 million from South Sudan, 2 million from other neighboring countries, besides one million who are waiting for legalizing their status.

Following the recent incidents in which some terrorist groups entered into a confrontation with the joint force in Jabra district, where some elements of those terrorist cells were arrested, and martyrs from the armed forces were counted.

The Sudanese Council of Minister directed all concerned parties to immediately reconvene and coordinate between the various state institutions to develop a strategy to regulate the foreign presence in Sudan.

The Sudanese Minister of Interior confirmed that the joint force was able to control the situation, stressing the importance of making an additional effort to control and monitor the foreign presence in Sudan while making practical arrangements through relations with countries to control security, as well as reviewing laws and policies in this field.

It must be recognized that the responsibility of foreign presence in Sudan is collective and includes the ordinary citizen, the police authorities, and all related institutions.

It is high time to deal with the presence of foreigners in Sudan seriously, especially the illegal presence.

We fully support the Sudanese Council of Minister directives to all concerned parties to immediately reconvene and coordinate between the various state institutions to develop a strategy to regulate the foreign presence in Sudan.

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