World Refugee Survey 2009: Sudan
Sudan hosted around 310,500 refugees from its neighbors, primarily Eritrea, Chad, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), and the Central African Republic (CAR). Of the roughly 165,800 Eritrean refugees, some 69,400 lived in 12 camps in eastern Sudan. Another 57,000 lived outside the camps operated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In the Darfur region, bandits and other assailants killed 11 aid workers, kidnapped 189 aid workers, and hijacked 261 vehicles during the first 11 months of the year, and aid agencies had to relocate at least 25 times due to the violence. After attacks forced the World Food Programme to cut rations, frustrated Chadian refugees attacked a UNHCR compound in the town of Mukjar in October, beating several staffers but causing no serious injuries.
In January, the Government shifted its refugee status determination center in eastern Sudan to Shagarab refugee camp, further away from the Sudan-Eritrea border than the previous location at Wad Sherife camp. During the year, it received 19,600 new applications, and held 7,400 interviews. Chadian arrivals in Darfur continued to receive refugee status prima facie.
In March, the UNHCR and the Government launched a registration program for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan. By year’s end it had registered camp-based refugees, and in 2009 officials planned to move on to refugees living in local communities. This exercise included refugees who had lost refugee status in 2003 when UNHCR declared Eritrea safe for their return. The Government also receiving nearly 500 asylum applications in Khartoum, but there was no independent verification of this.
The Government told Eritrean opposition groups in Sudan to cease activities against their home Government and close their offices in June.
More than 20 Somali and Eritrean refugees drowned in September when a boat capsized on the Atbara River in eastern Sudan. They were part of a larger group who had paid smugglers roughly $100 each for transportation from Shagarab camp to Khartoum.
Police arrested several refugees for selling tea on the streets during a Ramadan crack-down on the practice; authorities charged them with leaving refugee camps without permission or for immigration violations.
From September through the end of November, 4,500 refugees fled Congo-Kinshasa to Sudan’s Western Equitoria State. Attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, forced the Congolese to flee to Sudan.
Less than 10 percent of eligible refugee children attended secondary schools.
Law and Policy
Sudan is party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (African Refugee Convention). Sudan retains a reservation to the 1951 Convention’s right to freedom of movement. The Asylum Act appoints a COR, defines refugees generally following the 1951 and African Refugee Conventions, but does not prohibit refoulement, nor does it outline procedures or clear criteria for expulsion. It gives the Minister of Interior and his delegates the right to grant asylum for renewable periods of five years. If the Minister fails to decide on applications within one month, the Asylum Act deems them granted, for a renewable period of three months. The Asylum Act has no provisions for appeal, but the Government generally allows for appeals at Shagarab. UNHCR monitors the Government’s refugee status determination at Shagarab.
As of the end of 2008, it remained unknown whether the Asylum Act applies in South Sudan. Discussions continued as to whether the South Sudan Government or COR would have the responsibility for refugees.
The 1998 Constitution provides that “everyone who has lived in Sudan during their youth or who has been resident in Sudan for several years has the right to Sudanese nationality in accordance with law,” but Sudan does not allow refugees to become permanent residents or naturalize, regardless of how long they have lived in the country.
Detention/Access to Courts
Obtaining refugee documentation is an expensive, time-consuming, and arbitrary process; the involvement of the national security apparatus has made it more apparent. The Asylum Act requires COR to issue renewable identity cards to all refugees valid “for the period during which the refugee is granted permission to stay,” i.e., for five years or more. However, COR issues cards valid from three months to a year.
Refugees who leave the camps in eastern Sudan generally have to return to the camps if they wish to renew their documentation; the Government has granted a few exceptions and gave permission to renew at other COR offices. In southern Sudan and Darfur, refugees recognized prima facie do not receive identity cards. Recognized refugees could obtain identity cards, but the costs varied, ranging from 7 to 20 Sudanese pounds (about $3 to $9) in eastern Sudan to 20 Sudanese pounds (about $9) in Khartoum. Asylum seekers do not receive identity cards, although the Asylum Act entitles them to receive documentation.
The 1998 Constitution declares that “all persons” are equal before the law but also provides that “Sudanese are equal in the rights and duties of public life without discrimination based on race, sex or religion.” The Constitution extends to all its protections against arbitrary deprivation of liberty, due process provisions, and rights to effective remedies. The Asylum Act allows authorities to detain refugees “if it is found necessary.”
Freedom of Movement and Residence
Sudan maintains a reservation to the 1951 Convention’s right to freedom of movement and the Constitution reserves to citizens its right to freedom of movement. The Asylum Act allows imprisonment for up to one year to any refugee who leaves “any place of residence specified for him.” Sudan has imprisoned refugees violating these restrictions.
The Asylum Act also allows the Minister of Interior to provide refugees with passports; through certain exceptions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs can issue diplomatic passports.
The Government’s 2007 Decree No. 22 banned refugees from working for international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in other than manual labor positions unless they obtain formal work permits. Sudan had allowed refugees to work for INGOs with refugee cards alone for 15 years, and some refugees lost their jobs when the decree entered into force.
Sudan allocated some of its land to 1,300 refugee families in Um Gargur camp and 500 families in Abuda camp for farming. Other camp-based refugees found work on farms in their areas. The South Sudan government allows refugees to farm on land in Jonglei state without formal title.
The Constitution is silent on the right to work, but limits to citizens the right to join unions. The Asylum Act forbids refugees from working in security or defense-related industries and requires permission from the Department of Labour with notice to the Ministry of Interior to work in any other sector.
Legally employed refugees have the same labor and social rights as nationals.
The Asylum Act forbids refugees from acquiring immovable property, a restriction that also applies to foreigners in general.
Refugees can own bank accounts, and there are no known restrictions on their acquisition of movable property.
Refugees, including those without legal documents, can access Sudanese health care centers. Most cannot afford to pay for medications, surgery, or hospitalization; hospitals do not provide food and other necessities, and require a co-patient to tend to these items. UNHCR, on its own or through COR, assists refugees suffering serious conditions or completely unable to pay. UNHCR and its partners operate heath clinics in all twelve camps, which are open to Sudanese nationals who make up 30 percent of the clientele.
Sudan does not include refugees from neighboring countries in its poverty eradication plan.