Sudan's conflict fuels humanitarian crisis in Africa and beyond

The situation could deteriorate even further given that meeting the basic needs of refugees has become increasingly difficult due to a lack of funding –with serious implications for migration and security dynamics in Africa and beyond.

A few days ago, the UNHCR announced the addition of Libya and Uganda to its regional refugee response plan, which was launched in February this year to address the humanitarian needs of Sudanese migrants fleeing conflict in their home country. The plan initially covered the Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

The requested funds are intended to support host governments in providing asylum to people seeking international protection and to bolster efforts led by host governments to deliver essential aid, such as refugee registration, identifying the most vulnerable groups, providing services for survivors of gender-based violence, mental health care, food, transportation, logistics, health, education, and other services.

The UNHCR clarified that more than 20,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived in Libya since April 2023, describing Sudan as the country “facing the worst displacement crisis in the world today,” with nearly 12 million people forced to flee due to civil war and over 2 million displaced across borders to neighboring countries.

Security concerns linger as host communities are strained by migrant influx

In the southeastern Libyan municipality of Al-Kufra, which is only 700 kilometers from the Sudanese city of Dongola, local authorities have repeatedly called for urgent action to address the refugee crisis. Authorities say that most arrivals have been housed thanks to the efforts of local communities, but some refugees are forced to sleep outdoors and medical facilities are struggling to meet the growing needs.

Abdullah Suleiman, the spokesperson for Al-Kufra municipality, stated that the municipality's distance from other Libyan cities hampers the delivery of aid and its limited resources could lead to severe service disruptions with any additional influx of refugees. He also highlighted the security challenges posed by the lack of regulatory or legal measures for refugee entry into Libya, raising concerns that some refugees might be linked to nefarious or criminal activities in Sudan.

Previously, UNHCR's chief warned that delays in providing necessary aid could lead refugees to continue their journey to Europe via the dangerous Mediterranean route. In a press conference in early July, UNHCR’s Head of Global Communications, Ewan Watson, remarked that Sudanese seeking refuge in Libya reflect “the desperation of Sudanese people and the desperate decisions they make,” alluding to the poor services and living standards in Libya, or possibly conflating the systematic abuses faced by other African or Asian migrants in detention centers or at the hands of armed groups.

However, it should also be noted that the experiences of Sudanese refugees in Libya differ to those of other migrants due to geographical and cultural ties that make it easier for Sudanese nationals to integrate into local communities in Libya, and the fact that Sudanese refugees are experiencing a displacement crisis similar to what Libyans have long endured. A recent UNHCR report indicated that “neighboring countries to Sudan have shown significant solidarity in receiving those fleeing the war, but services in host communities remain overburdened, making it extremely difficult for refugees to settle, earn a living, and rebuild their lives.”

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