Sudan has a long history of hosting refugees and asylum seekers with 991,787 individuals, 51 per cent female and 53 per cent children, expected to live in Sudan by the end of 2020. In 2021 it is estimated that the country will continue to host refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen who are looking for safety from violence, persecution and other hazards in their countries of origin.
Sudan is host to one of the largest South Sudanese refugee populations in the region, with a total of 736,685 persons living in the country in December 2020. In East Sudan, a new influx of over 50,000 Ethiopian refugees began in November 2020. This new wave joins more than 130,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees and asylumseekers living in protracted situations in camps and urban areas across Aj Jazirah, Gedaref, Kassala, Red Sea and Sennar states. Moreover, over 110,000 refugees of various nationalities (Ethiopian, Eritrean, Congolese, Somali,
Yemeni and Syrian) are living in Khartoum together with over 190,000 South Sudanese refugees, all in dire need of assistance.
While the Government of Sudan maintains a generous open border policy for persons fleeing conflict and persecution, gaps remain that undermine the liberty, safety and dignity of refugees. These gaps concern registration and documentation, freedom of movement, access to basic services, labour markets, land and property ownership and financial services.
In recognition of its long tradition of hosting refugees and asylum seekers, the Government of Sudan also made nine pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, reflecting a commitment to an approach aligned with UNHCR’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). These pledges involve mainstreaming refugee health and education services into national systems, finding durable solutions for IDPs and returnees, and supporting self-reliance and access to employment for refugees. Recognizing that refugees and host communities need longerterm development approaches spanning across sectors will be critical to broadening the response base and helping to address widespread needs. Partners of the Refugee Consultation Forum (RCF) will therefore seek to further engage with development actors to establish linkages and mobilize resources, technical expertise and programming efforts to address the medium to long-term needs of refugees and host communities.
In 2020, Sudan faced floods, the COVID-19 pandemic and the new influx of Ethiopian refugees. Further, refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and host communities have been adversely affected by a severe economic downturn with annual inflation rates of over 269 per cent (December 2020), fuel shortages across the country and a general lack of income opportunities. The majority of refugee and asylum-seekers in Sudan face high levels of poverty. They are hosted in some of the poorest regions of the country, where host communities are equally struggling for scarce resources. While refugees often benefit from generous support provided by host communities, local resources are scarce, and services strained. Seasonal floods further compounded this situation, causing destruction of livelihoods, infrastructure, productive land and assets. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic overburdened the already weak public health system while extended lockdown measures caused additional hardship for refugees struggling to earn a livelihood. The global economic contraction due to COVID-19 has also significantly reduced remittances to Sudan.
Refugees in Sudan live in camps, rural out-of-camp settlements and urban areas in over 100 localities across 18 States. About 70 per cent live outside of camps in more than 100 settlements across the country, including large collective self-settlements where thousands of refugees live in “camp-like” areas adjacent to reception centres, as well as smaller dispersed settlements where refugees live integrated with host communities. Many out-of-camp settlements are in remote and underdeveloped areas, where resources, infrastructure and basic services are extremely limited. Some 30 per cent of refugees in Sudan live in 22 camps, and over half of those living in camps were born there.
Furthermore, encampment policies and movement restrictions force refugees and asylum-seekers to use smugglers to facilitate their internal and onward movements, which often exposes especially children and adolescent girls and boys to human trafficking and grave protection risks.
Voluntary return is not an option for a majority of refugees due to the situation in their countries of origin.
Resettlement opportunities are also limited. It is anticipated that in 2021, CAR, South Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees will continue to flee their country to seek asylum in Sudan.
In this context, it is expected that over 1.14 million refugees will be living in Sudan by the end of 2021. This situation disproportionately affects women and girls, who usually bear the brunt of adverse coping strategies. Refugees in Sudan need multi-sectoral interventions to address their specific vulnerabilities, bolster their self-reliance over the long term, and maintain and fulfil their rights as refugees. Investments in local infrastructure and strengthening of gender-sensitive education, health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services is also needed to ensure that local service systems have the capacity to absorb the increasing needs of refugees and host communities, and further strengthen social cohesion and peaceful coexistence so both communities can thrive