Sudan Blames Foreigners for Proliferation of Human Trafficking

Article Summary
Human trafficking is increasing in Sudan as officials point to foreign nationals organizing and running criminal rings and UN monitoring teams face roadblocks from accessing areas, writes Al-Nour Ahmad al-Nour.

The controversy over human trafficking in eastern Sudan has escalated, raising concerns with the state and throughout society. A minister accused “a mafia” from an Arab tribe and Yemeni and Egyptian individuals of being involved in the trafficking. Unrelatedly, the security situation in some areas in Darfur deteriorated and the United Nations-African Union Mission in the Darfur region (UNAMID) accused the authorities of restricting its activities in observing ongoing violence and clashes there.

Mabrouk Mubarak Salim, minister of state for agriculture and leader of the Free Lions group, revealed that networks comprising Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans are involved in trafficking in eastern Sudan. He asserted that the networks are using advanced technologies and are being managed from within the country and abroad. He added that the cost of eradicating trafficking is exorbitant. He continued that trafficking is damaging to the reputation of the Arab tribe of Rashaida, to which he belongs, extending to Libya and Gulf countries.

At a rally in ​​Abu Talha village, in Kassala province, eastern Sudan, Salim said that human kidnappings for the purpose of trafficking is religiously forbidden, ethically rejected and refused by the UN charters. He added that human trafficking that has emerged in eastern Sudan is “foreign” and does not reflect Sudanese ethics.

He noted that some groups coming from Egypt and Yemen entered his tribe and have begun trafficking. He noted that “weak-willed” members of his tribe allowed Egyptian and Yemeni criminals to enter, and pointed out that because their physical appearance is similar, these foreigners look like members of the Rashaida tribe.

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He revealed that tribes living on the border are involved in the trafficking, along with members of security services in some countries that export and import smuggled persons. He also claimed that opposition parties in some countries are also involved in the trafficking, but he did not reveal their identity.

Human trafficking has grown in eastern Sudan, through criminal networks, which transfer abducted people to Israel through the Egyptian territories or give them a small amount in exchange for their organs. Then, these organs are sold at exorbitant prices, particularly the kidneys. The abduction of African refugees has recently increased in refugee camps in the three states of eastern Sudan, which border Ethiopia and Eritrea, where the Sudanese authorities arrested the network.

Eastern Sudan is considered a passage for hundreds of migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who aspire to find a better future. However, many of those fall into the hands of human trafficking gangs, which abduct and blackmail them. The UN previously announced that it will cooperate with the Sudanese authorities to strengthen local police capacities in order to halt the smuggling of refugees in eastern Sudan. The UN noted that Eritreans fleeing their countries are considered easy targets for traffickers, who kidnap or kill them in the Sudanese desert.

According to Sudanese officials, Israel is working on rehabilitating smuggled persons and employing them within spy networks in their countries of origin.

Kaled Ata, coordinator of the African Bureau of the Human Rights Watch, said that human trafficking has dramatically increased in recent years due to the easy money it promises. The UN estimated it to be the third most lucrative form of organized crime, following drugs and arms trafficking.

He explained that the lack of accurate information and statistics on the extent of the problem, its victims and managing networks, has created an adequate atmosphere for the organized crime.

He revealed that more than 80 bodies were found on the border strip from Eritrea to Sudan in one year. These corpses were from people smuggled from neighboring African countries or persons kidnapped by gangs from the refugee camps.

Furthermore, an armed group riding vehicles with heavy weapons as well as horses and camels attacked a police station in Kendebe, in the Sirba locality of northern Al-Junayna, the capital of West Darfur, which borders Chad.

Witnesses said that the attackers seized a police car from the station and looted more than 60 shops in the area market, as well as the residents’ homes, after whipping them and randomly shooting to terrorize them and force them to flee their villages.

A number of citizens noted that the attack was carried out by the armed militias, who attacked police headquarters, under the pretext that members of the police had killed a member of the armed group accused of stealing cattle.

Looting took place in three large villages without resulting in any deaths. However, residents were forced to escape and flee their villages. According to citizens, the governor of Sirba only sent two police vehicles to the scene, which were not able to diffuse the situation. 

The UNAMID report revealed that the authorities and movements prevented the mission and international humanitarian organizations from accessing some areas in Darfur, particularly western Darfur, east Jebel Marra (the Marrah mountains), South Darfur and Hashaba in North Darfur.

The report confirmed that the authorities did not allow any mission from the UNAMID or international agencies to reach the west Jebbel Marra from August 2011 until September 2012. The report, which covered the period ranging from last October until the end of the year, also revealed that the authorities set restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid, and deregistered six national NGOs operating in South Darfur state, which provide 30,000 persons with basic commodities. These NGOs are:  the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), Al-Manal Charity Organization, the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa (SIHA), Fatima Al-Zahra’a for Child Care, and Al-MalamKeila.

The report said that the government authorities and armed movements’ refusal to allow access to some areas in Darfur and restrictions pose a major obstacle to humanitarian assistance in these areas, particularly in Hashaba, Abu Delek area, Sakli in North Darfur, and Jebel Marra. Moreover, they are preventing humanitarian assistance workers and delegations from reaching the field sites or traveling from Khartoum to Darfur.

Yesterday [Jan. 30] President Omar al-Bashir issued orders to the ministries to coordinate with the Interior Ministry when engaging in any humanitarian activity. In a meeting with Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud, Bashir also ordered security agencies not to restrict the movement of foreigners holding a residency permit or visit visa from moving in the country, and said to not require them to obtain travel permits, unless they are planning to enter operations and war affected areas.

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