Sudan has a long history of hosting refugees and asylum seekers, with over 1.1 million individuals estimated to be living in Sudan (as of 30 November 2019). This includes refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, who have arrived in search of safety from violence, persecution and other hazards in their countries of origin.
The South Sudanese refugee emergency remains the largest refugee crisis in Africa, and Sudan hosts one of the largest populations in the region with more than 840,000 South Sudanese refugees reported to be living in Sudan, as of 30 November 2019. In East Sudan, there are more than 130,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees and asylumseekers, living in camps and urban areas across Gezira, Gedaref, Kassala, Red Sea and Sennar states. There are over 120,000 Ethiopian, Eritrean, Congolese, Somalian, Yemeni, Syrian and Burundian refugees living in Khartoum and in need of assistance. While Syrian and Yemeni refugees are considered “brothers and sisters” by the Government of Sudan and are not required to register with UNHCR and Commission for Refugees (COR) upon arrival, over 15,000 Syrian and Yemeni refugees are registered in Khartoum for assistance due to their vulnerability.
There are an additional 79,800 Syrian nationals estimated to be living in Sudan. IIn Darfur, an ongoing influx of CAR refugees into remote parts of South and Central Darfur States has seen the population swell from nearly 7,800 refugees by the end of August, to nearly 17,000 in just two months to the end of November 2019. There are also nearly 3,100 Chadian refugees living in Central Darfur waiting to return to Chad in 2020.
Refugees in Sudan are living in camps, rural out-of-camp settlements and urban areas in 104 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 self-settlements where refugees live in a more integrated manner 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 one of 21 camps, and over half of those living in camps were born there.
While the Government of Sudan maintains a generous open border policy for those fleeing conflict and persecution, key protection gaps still persist that undermine the liberty, safety and dignity of refugees, including: access to registration and documentation gaps; limits on freedom of movement and access to basic services; and a lack of land and asset ownership, labour markets and financial services. While some progress has been made on improving access to work permits and public education for refugees, refugees still face challenges when trying to access public services. Refugees often face higher fees and tariffs for public services compared to other populations.
Furthermore, encampment policies and movement restrictions force refugees and asylum-seekers to use smugglers to facilitate their internal and onward movements, which often exposes them to human trafficking and grave protection risks.
Significant funding gaps persist for the refugee response in Sudan, which have been exacerbated by Sudan’s ongoing economic situation. The majority of refugee and asylum-seekers in Sudan face high levels of poverty, limited access to livelihood opportunities, and are hosted in some of the poorest regions of the country, where host communities are also struggling. While refugees often benefit from generous support provided by host communities, local resources remain scarce and local service systems are often unable to keep up with increased demand for services.
Voluntary return is not an option for a vast majority of refugees due to the situation in their countries of origin and resettlement opportunities remain limited. It is anticipated that CAR, South Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees will continue to arrive in Sudan in 2020. Inter-agency partners estimate 32,100 new arrivals by the end of 2020. It is also estimated that some 20,000 South Sudanese refugees and 1,000 Ethiopian refugees will spontaneously return in 2020, and at least 2,500 Chadians will be supported to voluntarily return. With this in mind, inter-agency partners are anticipating a net increase of over 8,000 individuals.
Based on these assessments, it is anticipated that over 1.14 million refugees will be living in Sudan and in need of assistance by the end of 2020. Refugees in Sudan are in need of multi-sectoral interventions to address their vulnerabilities and assistance needs while in asylum, bolster their self-reliance and well-being over the long term, and maintain and fulfil their rights as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Investments in local infrastructure and strengthening of 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 impacted host communities, and strengthen social cohesion and peaceful coexistence so both communities can thrive.