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Sudan crisis: Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees plead to UN for help

Open letter says UN refugee agency has failed to provide assistance to Eritreans and Ethiopians stranded in the conflict zone
Passengers fleeing war-torn Sudan arrive at the Qastal land port crossing between Egypt and Sudan, 13 May 2023 (AFP)

Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in Sudan pleaded to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help them relocate to a safe third country, as the internal infighting leaves them exposed to abuse and violence.

In an open letter addressed to the UN body, refugees said many have been forced to flee the conflict to unknown locations while others became "victims of human trafficking". 

"As refugees, we have suffered from atrocities committed against us by the army and commanders while we were in Khartoum," the letter, dated 21 May, said. 

"We have experienced kidnapping, violence, torture, arbitrary arrests and exploitation by the Sudanese police." 

The letter added that the UN refugee body has failed to provide them with "any assistance" for nearly a month. 

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"We are making a basic demand: to be relocated from Sudan to a safe third country. Failing to do so may cost us our lives and make us additional casualties of the war," the letter said. 

Many people have been displaced from Khartoum and stranded at the borders of Ethiopia, South Sudan and Egypt, according to the letter. Others were stuck in the capital as they lacked the financial means to pay for transportation.

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Those caught in the crossfire include "mothers who just gave birth, women with young children, elders, and sick and disabled people". 

Middle East Eye contacted the UNHCR but did not receive a response at the time of publication.  

Sudan is home to more than one million refugees fleeing conflicts in neighbouring countries, including South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Syria and Yemen.

Since a conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) broke out in mid-April, thousands of refugees have been stranded without help. 

Last week, the UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said that the war in Sudan displaced 843,000 people internally, and 250,000 people have fled across Sudan's borders to Ethiopia and South Sudan, including 60,000 refugees who fled into neighbouring Chad. 

At least 110,000 people crossed to Egypt in the north since the conflict began, and around 5,000 internally displaced people arrive each day at the Egyptian border. 

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