For Syrian refugees in Sudan, returning home “would be suicide”
Syrians fled to Sudan to avoid violence. They thought the sound of missiles and gunfire was permanently behind them. But the recent clashes in Khartoum seem to have shattered their illusion of safety.
Once again, roughly 30,000 Syrian refugees who started new lives in Sudan are experiencing the devastation that comes with war. The recent deadly fighting in the country has been lasting for the past 15 days, killing over 500 people and displacing tens of thousands of others.
“The situation has become very dire in the capital, Khartoum,” said Saleh Ismail al-Badran, who has lived in Khartoum for six years and is now married to a Sudanese woman.
Although he was initially afraid of being attacked by the rival parties involved in the conflict, he soon realised armed gangs had become more of a threat. Many Syrian families were robbed and even killed while fleeing from the capital at the hands of gangs, he added.
Some Syrians have travelled towards Wadi Halfa, close to the border with Egypt, in an attempt to enter the neighbouring country. It’s a route that has already been taken by thousands of Sudanese. However, al-Badran said Egyptian border guards didn’t allow Syrians to enter.
He has decided to stay home in Khartoum with his family, despite the constant shelling. Some Syrians have also travelled from the capital to other parts of the country, which are relatively safe, such as Port Sudan in the northeast.
But with hotels getting more and more expensive and rent prices rising, many are compelled to sleep on the streets while waiting for a place on ships taking people across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia.
Abu Muhammad, who has lived in Khartoum for nine years and has two children with his wife, said he left the city after clashes intensified and water and power were cut off, travelling more than 12 hours to reach Port Sudan.
He expressed his dilemma before Al Jazeera over whether to stay in Port Sudan or go to Saudi Arabia. Syrian refugees reaching the Kingdom will potentially be sent back to their home country, Muhammad added. “That would be suicide [as] my return to Syria means that I will be arrested.”