I do not believe in an exodus to neighboring countries
Historian, specialist in the Horn of Africa
Experience shows that if the Sudanese decide to leave en masse for their neighbors, the latter will be forced to manage more or less well to cope, as the DR-Congo did with the Rwandan refugees in 1994. But I don’t believe in an exodus towards neighboring countries comparable to Rwanda, primarily because of endogenous factors. Sudan has an area of 1,879,358 km2, approximately 3.4 times the size of France. To leave it, you have to overcome significant distances and natural and hostile obstacles.
It therefore takes money to leave the country, while the population is one of the poorest in the world. From Khartoum, you are not going to walk to Egypt with your children. Going to Libya means having to take a vehicle capable of driving several days in the desert independently, otherwise you seriously risk dying of thirst. The Sudanese also know that the borders are areas of banditry. Crossing them exposes you to being attacked and robbed.
To these endogenous reasons are added exogenous factors. Look at the seven countries that share a border with Sudan: Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Libya, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Countries plagued by poverty and insecurity, with the relative exception of Egypt. For the Sudanese, to take refuge in one of these countries is to fall from Charybdis to Scylla.
Look at the Central African Republic, it is under the control of warlords and Russia, an ally of General Dagalo: for the populations who suffered from him in Darfur, it is throwing themselves into the mouth of the wolf to go there . To go to South Sudan is to find a situation equal to or worse than the one you are fleeing. To choose Eritrea is to shut oneself up in an authoritarian and impoverished prison. To take refuge in Ethiopia is to settle in the heart of a latent conflict which has just claimed at least 300,000 lives in two years. As for Libya, if you make it there alive, you haven’t seen anything yet if you don’t have the right community connections. You can also try to cross the Red Sea but you still have to get to Port Sudan. And once you have crossed the Red Sea, you are in Yemen, which is not really a dream destination.
The Sudanese who go to take refuge with their neighbor are mainly border residents who do not have a great distance to cross, who do not need large means to do so and who have community ties. Those who have money will rather go to Egypt or Saudi Arabia, by the Red Sea and Yemen. The others, that is to say the vast majority of the population, will prefer to move in areas of the interior which escape the conflicts between the partisans of the two generals.
Collected by Laurent Larcher
Europe will seek to keep the displaced in the region
Researcher at CNRS, Ceri and Sciences Po
As far as the European Union is concerned, there are two possible scenarios. In the first, Europe would welcome displaced Sudanese. For that, it would be necessary that a certain number of borders open so that the Sudanese can arrive. Otherwise, humanitarian corridors must be set up: the Sudanese would arrive by plane, either from Ethiopia or from Egypt. I am very skeptical of this assumption.
The other scenario is to create a form of international solidarity in the countries of first asylum where the displaced arrive (Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Eritrea). It is then the humanitarian organizations that manage the first reception: the West will undoubtedly invest massively in these countries to offer assistance to the displaced persons. This option is in line with the European policy to contain migration. The European Union funds NGOs and UN organisations, such as the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the International Organization for Migration (IOM), so that they can take in the displaced.
Given the tension over the last ten years in Europe on the issue of migration, the second scenario will surely be favoured. It is consistent with consistent European policy for many years. It began to emerge in the 1990s and really took hold in the 2010s, starting with the Arab Spring. The containment strategy then became very explicit, and Europe implemented it in a very uninhibited way. The EU then put itself in battle order to counter migration and ensure that people were kept in place in crisis areas, generating displaced persons. There has always been displacement in the Horn of Africa with the conflicts in Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. For each of these crises, the refugees remained mainly in the region. This has become a priority for European donors who want to ensure that this continues to be the case.
There was a fear in the early 2010s, because a route had been organized for the Sudanese and the Eritreans, even if we are talking about very small numbers. This created a slight panic among the member states of the European Union, with a fear of an influx of refugees. But in this case, it was not the EU’s policy of containment that worked. The reason why the refugees remained in the region is independent of the measures taken by European countries. When they were moved, they were moved involuntarily. The vast majority of them do not want to travel too far, so that they can more easily return to their country of origin.
Collected by Edward Maille