20 August 2017

Sudan: 'Human Trafficking Crimes Increasing in Eastern Sudan'

Port Sudan / Kassala / Wad Madani — Residents of Red Sea state in eastern Sudan reported an increase in crimes concerning refugees and asylum seekers, including kidnappings, in the region.

"The number of abductions for ransom is rapidly increasing in eastern Sudan," listener Ali Muneeb told Radio Dabanga.

"The number of unlicensed vehicles and motorcycles without plates is growing accordingly" he said. "Some of these vehicles belong to the regular forces, while other cars have been smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries, such as the Boko Haram vehicles from Libya and Chad."

He said that a police campaign against unlicensed vehicles last month resulted in the seizure of 135 vehicles, 203 rickshaws, and 26 motorcycles.

Last week, an Eritrean refugee was kidnapped in Kassala. "A few days later, they phoned us and demanded a ransom of more than SDG 3,500 ($521) for her release," a relative told this station. "We have begun to collect the amount from our relatives around the world."

The police of Kassala, El Gedaref, and El Gezira held a coordination meeting in Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira, on Wednesday. The spokesman for the El Gezira state police, Brig. Hatem Osman, reported that during a combing campaign in the El Butana plains in neighbouring El Gedaref earlier this year, the state police held 75 human traffickers, cattle thieves, and arms dealers.

Anti-smuggling

Radio Dabanga reported on 18 August that clashes erupted between villagers and anti-smuggling forces in rural Kassala because of frequent house raids carried out by the forces.

The Kassala state parliament discussed the raids, and agreed to hold a workshop to set measures for the prevention of anti-smuggling forces raiding residential districts.

On 28 April this year, the El Gedaref police released 56 people from a human trafficking gang in El Butana plains. The abductees, among them women and children, were held in extremely harsh humanitarian conditions for more than a month. The gang demanded a ransom of $3,000 per person.

In March, 11 Eritreans were released from the hands of a human trafficking gang.

In October last year, the head of the Kassala state police, Maj. Gen. Yahya Hadi Suleiman as well reported an increase, and said that at least 200 people fell victim to human trafficking in the state in 2016.

He said that many trafficking gangs kidnap foreigners crossing Sudan on their way to the north, and force them to pay ransom for their release.

Sudanese officials have often been accused of being involved in the trafficking. In December 2013, a report compiled by European researchers, The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond pointed to "a close collaboration between Eritrean traffickers and Sudanese security, military and police officials".

Tackling migration

According to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), Sudan is one of the main transit countries of eastern Africans who want to travel to Europe by sea.

Funding by the European Commission to the Sudanese government earlier this year, to be implemented under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, contains a development aid package of €155 million, "to tackle the root causes of irregular migration in the country" and "improve migration management processes".

Sudanese activists claim that providing such funds to Khartoum are futile. They say that the aid package is used to tighten the grip by the security apparatus on the population.

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