Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 10:00 GMT

World Refugee Survey 2009 - Sudan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 17 June 2009
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, World Refugee Survey 2009 - Sudan, 17 June 2009, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Sudan figures


Sudan hosted around 310,500 refugees from its neighbors, primarily Eritrea, Chad, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), and the Central African Republic (CAR). Of the roughly 165,800 Eritrean refugees, some 69,400 lived in 12 camps in eastern Sudan. Another 57,000 lived outside the camps operated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sudan hosted around 41,200 Chadian refugees and 10,000 Ethiopians.

2008 Summary

During the year, Sudan returned 129 Ethiopian nationals to Ethiopia, of which 18 were refugees or asylum seekers and 53 were not screened by UNHCR and Sudan's Commissioner for Refugees (COR).

Refugees reported receiving threats from intelligence agents of their home governments, and Sudan provided additional security to some, and UNHCR moved some refugees from camp to camp to protect them.

Police and agents of the Ministry of the Interior's Alien Section regularly swept areas of Khartoum known to have large numbers of foreigners, including refugees and asylum seekers, for being in the country without permission or moving from their original place of registration. Security forces also detained refugees and asylum seekers on suspicion of espionage, as well as to force them to provide information on others. Sudan arrested nearly 3,400 refugees and asylum seekers during the year, including 1,200 Eritreans, 1,000 Ethiopians, and almost 1,200 Somalis. Sudan's Advisory Council on Human Rights told the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights this was necessary because refugees had left their assigned camps and created a large foreign presence in the capital. It was also added that documented refugees and asylum seekers were released when arrested. UNHCR generally had access to detention facilities, police stations, and courts to assist detained refugees and asylum seekers. UNHCR and COR were generally able to secure the release of refugees and asylum seekers, and at year's end, only one Ethiopian remained in detention since an arrest in March. The United States Department of State reported Sudan ceased raiding the homes of Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees, as it had done in previous years.

In the Darfur region, bandits and other assailants killed 11 aid workers, kidnapped 189 aid workers, and hijacked 261 vehicles during the first 11 months of the year, and aid agencies had to relocate at least 25 times due to the violence. After attacks forced the World Food Programme to cut rations, frustrated Chadian refugees attacked a UNHCR compound in the town of Mukjar in October, beating several staffers but causing no serious injuries.

In January, the Government shifted its refugee status determination center in eastern Sudan to Shagarab refugee camp, further away from the Sudan-Eritrea border than the previous location at Wad Sherife camp. During the year, it received 19,600 new applications, and held 7,400 interviews. Chadian arrivals in Darfur continued to receive refugee status prima facie.

In March, the UNHCR and the Government launched a registration program for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan. By year's end it had registered camp-based refugees, and in 2009 officials planned to move on to refugees living in local communities. This exercise included refugees who had lost refugee status in 2003 when UNHCR declared Eritrea safe for their return. The Government also receiving nearly 500 asylum applications in Khartoum, but there was no independent verification of this.

The Government told Eritrean opposition groups in Sudan to cease activities against their home Government and close their offices in June.

More than 20 Somali and Eritrean refugees drowned in September when a boat capsized on the Atbara River in eastern Sudan. They were part of a larger group who had paid smugglers roughly $100 each for transportation from Shagarab camp to Khartoum.

Police arrested several refugees for selling tea on the streets during a Ramadan crack-down on the practice; authorities charged them with leaving refugee camps without permission or for immigration violations.

From September through the end of November, 4,500 refugees fled Congo-Kinshasa to Sudan's Western Equitoria State. Attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, forced the Congolese to flee to Sudan.

Less than 10 percent of eligible refugee children attended secondary schools.

Law and Policy

Refoulement/Physical Protection

The Sudanese Government has deported refugees and asylum seekers and does not specifically provide protection. Southern Sudanese authorities generally respect the non-refoulement principle, except in security cases, despite the lack of legislation.

Sudan is party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (African Refugee Convention). Sudan retains a reservation to the 1951 Convention's right to freedom of movement. The Asylum Act appoints a COR, defines refugees generally following the 1951 and African Refugee Conventions, but does not prohibit refoulement, nor does it outline procedures or clear criteria for expulsion. It gives the Minister of Interior and his delegates the right to grant asylum for renewable periods of five years. If the Minister fails to decide on applications within one month, the Asylum Act deems them granted, for a renewable period of three months. The Asylum Act has no provisions for appeal, but the Government generally allows for appeals at Shagarab. UNHCR monitors the Government's refugee status determination at Shagarab.

As of the end of 2008, it remained unknown whether the Asylum Act applies in South Sudan. Discussions continued as to whether the South Sudan Government or COR would have the responsibility for refugees.

The 1998 Constitution provides that "everyone who has lived in Sudan during their youth or who has been resident in Sudan for several years has the right to Sudanese nationality in accordance with law," but Sudan does not allow refugees to become permanent residents or naturalize, regardless of how long they have lived in the country.

Detention/Access to Courts

Sudan arbitrarily detains scores of refugees and asylum seekers, charging them with illegal entry and lack of documentation under the Passport and Immigration Law of 1993. UNHCR and COR provide lawyers to represent and challenge these detentions. Courts generally acquit refugees and asylum seekers of immigration charges when there is representation,.

Obtaining refugee documentation is an expensive, time-consuming, and arbitrary process; the involvement of the national security apparatus has made it more apparent. The Asylum Act requires COR to issue renewable identity cards to all refugees valid "for the period during which the refugee is granted permission to stay," i.e., for five years or more. However, COR issues cards valid from three months to a year.

Refugees who leave the camps in eastern Sudan generally have to return to the camps if they wish to renew their documentation; the Government has granted a few exceptions and gave permission to renew at other COR offices. In southern Sudan and Darfur, refugees recognized prima facie do not receive identity cards. Recognized refugees could obtain identity cards, but the costs varied, ranging from 7 to 20 Sudanese pounds (about $3 to $9) in eastern Sudan to 20 Sudanese pounds (about $9) in Khartoum. Asylum seekers do not receive identity cards, although the Asylum Act entitles them to receive documentation.

The 1998 Constitution declares that "all persons" are equal before the law but also provides that "Sudanese are equal in the rights and duties of public life without discrimination based on race, sex or religion." The Constitution extends to all its protections against arbitrary deprivation of liberty, due process provisions, and rights to effective remedies. The Asylum Act allows authorities to detain refugees "if it is found necessary."

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Sudan maintains an encampment policy for refugees. Authorities allow refugees apply for permission to move to the capital only for educational, medical need, and family reunification; the issuance of these permits and the fees charged remain arbitrary. Authorities informally tolerate in Khartoum well-educated Eritrean refugees, who received ID cards in eastern Sudan. Many refugees do violate these restrictions and leave the camps to search for work or attend schools. In southern Sudan and Darfur, refugees recognized "prima facie" reportedly are free to move in those areas, but without documentation are unable to travel to the rest of the country.

Sudan maintains a reservation to the 1951 Convention's right to freedom of movement and the Constitution reserves to citizens its right to freedom of movement. The Asylum Act allows imprisonment for up to one year to any refugee who leaves "any place of residence specified for him." Sudan has imprisoned refugees violating these restrictions.

The Asylum Act also allows the Minister of Interior to provide refugees with passports; through certain exceptions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs can issue diplomatic passports.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Sudan requires refugees with valid identity cards to obtain permits through the Department of Labour to legally work; the process for obtaining permits is complex and expensive. As a result, most refugees opt for work in the informal sector at lower wages than Sudanese, and they are often overqualified for these jobs. Male refugees in Khartoum and other cities often work as day laborers on construction sites, and women typically work as cooks or maids.

The Government's 2007 Decree No. 22 banned refugees from working for international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in other than manual labor positions unless they obtain formal work permits. Sudan had allowed refugees to work for INGOs with refugee cards alone for 15 years, and some refugees lost their jobs when the decree entered into force.

Sudan allocated some of its land to 1,300 refugee families in Um Gargur camp and 500 families in Abuda camp for farming. Other camp-based refugees found work on farms in their areas. The South Sudan government allows refugees to farm on land in Jonglei state without formal title.

The Constitution is silent on the right to work, but limits to citizens the right to join unions. The Asylum Act forbids refugees from working in security or defense-related industries and requires permission from the Department of Labour with notice to the Ministry of Interior to work in any other sector.

Legally employed refugees have the same labor and social rights as nationals.

The Asylum Act forbids refugees from acquiring immovable property, a restriction that also applies to foreigners in general.

Refugees can own bank accounts, and there are no known restrictions on their acquisition of movable property.

Public Relief and Education

Refugee students in urban areas can attend Sudanese elementary schools, although because Sudanese schools follow an Islamic curriculum and teach in Arabic, many Christian refugees send their children to private schools. In South Sudan, there were not enough schools for Sudanese for refugee children, but some refugee communities organized their own schools. Furthermore, schools in the camps lack the necessary resources, including a lack of textbooks and writing materials. Secondary education is not free for both Sudanese and refugees, but compared to nationals, fees charged for refugees can range to nearly double.

Refugees, including those without legal documents, can access Sudanese health care centers. Most cannot afford to pay for medications, surgery, or hospitalization; hospitals do not provide food and other necessities, and require a co-patient to tend to these items. UNHCR, on its own or through COR, assists refugees suffering serious conditions or completely unable to pay. UNHCR and its partners operate heath clinics in all twelve camps, which are open to Sudanese nationals who make up 30 percent of the clientele.

Sudan does not include refugees from neighboring countries in its poverty eradication plan.

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