Sudan: Qastal-Ashkit Border Crossing Into Egypt Re-Opened As Wadi Halfa Becomes More Crowded

Wadi Halfa — The Egyptian authorities re-opened the Qastal-Ashkit crossing to vehicles coming from Wadi Halfa yesterday, after a five-day closure. The humanitarian situation in Wadi Halfa is dire.

Listener Saeed Abu Ammar told Radio Dabanga from Wadi Halfa that the number of buses allowed to enter the country per day has been limited to 30 by the Egyptian authorities.

"Wadi Halfa remains crowded with people fleeing the war in Khartoum," he said. "About 25 buses arrive from the capital each day."

He said that many tents have been set up in the border town to shelter the fleeing people until they leave for Egypt and said that the visa procedures for men aged 16 to 50* take about a month.

"The town is witnessing an outbreak of fevers while health care is scarce," he said.

"Wadi Halfa is not prepared to receive thousands of people. It has led to an unprecedented deterioration of the environment, the explosion of sewage networks and the accumulation of waste as the number of garbage trucks is not proportionate to the pressure on the small town."

Ammar talked of an unprecedented rise in the prices of basic commodities, "of which most, as always, come from Egypt".

According to UN reports, the number of Sudanese who fled to Egypt so far exceeds 113,000.

The situation at border crossings is dire, especially at the Wadi Halfa and Argeen border crossings into Egypt, but also at those to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

The alarming waits and lack of shelter, drinking water, food, and medical supplies has led to an unconfirmed number of deaths and sparked enough concern that an open letter was shared by activist group to the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the UNHCR Egypt Representative to call for more support to those fleeing violence in Sudan.

* In 2004, Egypt and Sudan signed the so-called Four Freedoms Convention, allowing the free movement of citizens between both "brotherly countries", as well as working and owning property with no special permit. Soon, however, it became clear that Sudanese men aged between 16-50 still needed a visa to be able to cross the northern border. In 2018, the authorities in Cairo requested an amendment to some of the agreement's clauses, including officially restricting the entry of Sudanese to Egypt. Cairo reportedly feared a massive influx of refugees from Darfur and terrorist groups from Sudan.

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