Smugglers use trucks carrying many times their carrying capacity of Sudanese refugees (social networking sites)

Khartoum -

Although it is a process that is supposed to be confidential and extremely cautious, it is no longer the case, as entering Egypt or Libya through smuggling has become a target for thousands of Sudanese fleeing the war that has been going on for 11 months.

Without paying attention to the grave risks that surround an unknown journey through the deserts and mountains, thousands of Sudanese choose to embark on it as a last resort in search of safety after losing hope of an imminent return to the homes they abandoned under the sound of cannons and bullets.

The numbers of people crossing the border in irregular ways increased, especially after the Rapid Support Forces invaded the state of Al-Jazira in mid-December, where smuggling gangs are widely active in the border strip that connects Sudan to both Egypt and Libya.

High numbers

Malek Al-Digawi, head of the program “Reducing Irregular Migration and the Voluntary Return of Sudanese Communities in Libya,” confirmed to Al-Jazeera Net that the number of people fleeing through smuggling to Libya increased after the war.

He says that large numbers enter through Kufra and Tobruk coming from Egypt, and estimated numbers of Sudanese refugees arrive in Chad and Central Africa in Libya. According to Al-Digawi, the official authorities estimate the number of Sudanese refugees at about 400,000. He clarifies that the numbers do not include those who enter irregularly and that The number is more than mentioned.

Ahmed Al-Abbas, who arrived in Cairo last week with his children and a number of his family members, says that he was forced to agree with smugglers to transport him to Egypt in two cars whose drivers were stipulated not to carry others except themselves, and that for this risk he paid all the money he had left to get rid of the threats and prosecutions of the Rapid Support. As a cadre of the former regime, “and therefore he became a legitimate target.”

He added to Al Jazeera Net, "I began my journey outside my home, displaced inside Khartoum from one neighborhood to another. We were pursued by Rapid Support attacks, so we left under the sound of cannons and the whizzing of bullets. We left Khartoum for Al Jazeera State and stayed in a remote village, but the Janjaweed attack reached us and the apartment was far away from us this time."

He continues, "We went out to the Nile River State, where they pursued us with threatening messages and intimidation, then to the city of Abu Hamad in northern Sudan, exploring a way to seek refuge in Egypt. The official ports of entry were closed to us, so we took a bumpy path. We knew that it might end us in the land of Kanana or in a grave in a barren desert." .

At the outskirts of Abu Hamad Market, mysterious men walk around offering their services, saying, “We will carry you on the back of a Toyota Hilux truck for 250,000 Sudanese pounds ($250), and if you reserve a seat inside the truck’s cabin, the price of the ticket will double.”

Al-Abbas explains that travelers prefer to place their children and women inside the cabin, but that luxury ends with them hours later at a point close to the Egyptian border that smugglers call “the warehouse,” where the truck that took you from Abu Hamad is replaced by another.

All the passengers are crammed onto the trunk of the car and it travels at a speed of 180 km/h, reaching 200 km/h in some places. The greater the risk of detection by the Egyptian border guards, the faster the speed increases.

The smuggling journey from northern Sudan to the Egyptian border takes approximately 32 hours and sometimes days (Reuters)

Risks and fears

One of the smugglers tells you, “You have to hold on tight. We will not stop to catch those who fall in some areas.” Some of them do not hesitate to secure passengers with ropes to the trunk of the car, but Al-Abbas considers himself lucky that his family’s smugglers did not have to do that.

On the contrary, the journey of Shahad, her family and her children seemed like a piece of hell - as she told Al Jazeera Net - as she set off from the Sidon region in the Nile River State and lived for 5 days in the mountains after the smugglers informed them that the road was not safe and that they had to remain in the “storage” until the eyes of the Egyptian border guards moved away. .

Shahad Al-Tayeb (a pseudonym) says that after she arrived in Egypt in a miserable state - 3 weeks ago - she feared for the fate of her four children who lived in Sudan through the horror of bombing and bullets, and then the chapters of their tragedies were completed by seeing the horrors of traveling to Egypt in this painful way.

She tells how two of her sons nearly died because of the contaminated water they were forced to drink after their water supply ran out, in addition to being exposed to extreme cold and lack of food after they ran out of money due to the “astronomical” prices imposed by collaborators with smugglers in the “warehousing” on “miserable” foods. Which they offer to passers-by.

She adds that the smuggler put her, her children and two sisters and 10 others on the back of the open vehicle for 250,000 Sudanese pounds per person, then tied them up with ropes and required them to leave any luggage except small backpacks for each person.

She added, "He did not pay attention to our screams and the children's crying because of the high speed on a very bumpy road. I was afraid that the car would overturn at any moment. We were in a column of about 20 cars, all of them driving at crazy speed. We saw more than one accident in front of us. Some bodies were lying on the road, including young children." "The sight was harsh and painful. I can't believe we survived."

Escape trip

The journey from Abu Hamad in northern Sudan to the Egyptian border takes no less than 32 hours and may sometimes extend for days. The smugglers move in the afternoon and do not stop until shortly before midnight at a point surrounded by mountains and rocks, where relatively luxury cars are replaced by others. Suitable for rough terrain.

At the cover of the night, they resume their departure for long hours, during which the trucks may be exposed to gunfire and violent pursuit by Egyptian border guard forces.

Near Aswan, the trucks stop at a point called “Al-Kassarat,” where passengers are dropped off to take a “tuk-tuk” to the outskirts of the city and then a “minibus” into the city and from there to Cairo. At these points, the arrivals complain of the great exploitation of their conditions.

Awaiting Al-Abbas, he and thousands of Sudanese witnessed suffering they had not taken into account, as they told Al-Jazeera Net. Their irregular entry required them to document their status with the Egyptian authorities, and this required paying $1,000 per person.

They must also register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but they will not be able to obtain the UNHCR card - which guarantees them legal protection - before 4 months, which is the date they said the UNHCR had set for the initial interview.

Until that date, Al-Abbas says that his savings will not be enough for him to survive and support the family and that he must search for a way to return to Sudan via the same dangerous route, while Shahad explains that she will try to search for work so that she can support her children and sisters until her interview at the UNHCR comes.

The official authorities in Egypt estimate the number of Sudanese who arrived in its territory after the war last April at about 500,000, while it is difficult to count those who entered through irregular means, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Egypt says that the number of those registered after the war reached approximately 240,000 Sudanese and is still... Thousands are requesting an appointment to register.

Last month, the Consulate General of Sudan in Aswan warned its citizens against entering Egypt through irregular means, and said - in a statement - that the matter “puts the perpetrator at risk and legal accountability,” and spoke of “the occurrence of traffic accidents and the exposure of many to looting and extortion from human smuggling gangs.” .

Source: Al Jazeera