22nd Mar 2018


EU must put Sudan under microscope at Africa summit

  • The EU is reliant on Sudan's Rapid Support Forces ensuring they respect human rights (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

The European Union has pledged hundreds of millions of euros for the 'Khartoum Process', a multinational effort to manage migration from the Horn of Africa to Europe.

In Sudan, it supports a mix of development and humanitarian assistance - but also the country's controversial border control and counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling operations.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The upcoming AU-EU Summit next week in Ivory Coast is an opportunity for the EU to renew its commitment to put human rights at the heart of its work, including its migration response.

The EU's programs in Sudan have been widely criticised on human rights grounds, in large part because its border control support the notoriously abusive Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which were responsible for atrocities in Darfur.

The EU has flatly denied funding the RSF, but the perception that it does shows the cost of doing business with Sudan's abusive government.

That perception is reinforced every time the RSF commander, Mohammed Hamdan, known as 'Hemeti', brazenly boasts of capturing migrants on Sudan's border with Libya at the behest of the EU.

This blind-eye approach feeds into a wider shift in Sudan policy, not just by the EU but also the United States, which in October formally revoked broad economic sanctions on Sudan.

Sudanese forces, including the RSF, collude with human traffickers and smugglers rather than responsibly investigate them, Human Rights Watch and the United States government have found.

Moreover, the violence Hemeti boasts about triggers other abuses. Sudan's law enforcement and judicial officials conflate trafficking and smuggling, resulting in criminal prosecution of trafficking victims.

In 2017, this was one of the problems that kept Sudan on 'tier three' - the lowest designation in the US government's annual counter-trafficking evaluations.

In Sudan, migrants are vulnerable to a litany of abuses.

Rape, arrest, and jail

Many live in legal limbo; can be rounded up and arrested at any time and summarily tried for immigration violations; and can be jailed, fined, and deported without due process or transparency.

They face extortion and other forms of exploitation. When I was in Khartoum in October, an Eritrean tea-seller told me that two policemen raped her in June and threatened her with deportation if she reported the case. She finally told a trusted friend about it in September.

Sexual violence against domestic workers, many of them trafficked, appears alarmingly common.

Obtaining refugee status – which under Sudan's encampment policy means going to a refugee camp to register and staying there – does little to guard against abuses by Sudan's national security service.

An Ethiopian man in his sixties who has a refugee card told me of his harrowing experience one night in August, when three national security agents took him from his home in Khartoum, forced him into a pickup, and detained him for nine days in an unmarked building, where they interrogated him about his links to an Oromo opposition group in Ethiopia.

He feels certain the Ethiopian government asked Sudan to pick him up, although he has been living in Khartoum for more than 30 years.

Sudan regularly deports refugees in violation of international and African regional prohibitions on refoulement – that is, sending refugees back to countries where they face persecution.

In August and September, Sudan deported hundreds of Eritreans, including 30 children, on alleged immigration law violations, a move the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said flouted Sudan's international obligations.

In 2016, Sudan deported over 300 migrants, most Eritrean, including six registered refugees, back to Eritrea, where they faced abuse. Such deportations are likely more frequent than media reporting suggests.

If the EU wishes to support the Khartoum Process' goals, it needs to engage in the difficult task of pressing Sudan to improve respect for human rights – not just of refugees, but more broadly.

It is not enough to disavow support for the RSF; it should improve information and legal services, adopt a clear set of human rights benchmarks for Sudan, and call Sudan out on specific violations and patterns of abuse that affect everyone in the country.

Jehanne Henry is acting associate director of the Africa division at Human Rights Watch

EU and Africa leaders in migrant talks

France is hosting a mini-summit on Monday in Paris with leaders from Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, Niger and Libya. The talks will likely cover broad discussions on migration, security and development.


South Sudan: Inside Africa's largest refugee crisis

Despite EU and international aid, Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda is struggling to care for people fleeing an under-reported war and famine in South Sudan that has displaced millions.

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

EU must push African Union on rights abuses

The EU-Africa Union summit in the Ivory Coast provides a chance to scrutinise the human rights records of African states the EU is enthusiastically partnering-up with.

'Denial' - is meat the new climate change?

The European Parliament's agriculture committee meets on Tuesday, with speculation that the EPP will vote against a report on the EU plant protein plan if it mentions switching away from animals to plant-based diets.

Column / Brussels Bytes

EU e-privacy proposal risks breaking 'Internet of Things'

EU policymakers need to clarify that the e-privacy should not apply to most Internet of Things devices. The current proposal require explicit user consent in all cases - which is not practical.

News in Brief

  1. EU will be exempted from tariffs, says US minister
  2. Malmstroem: EU 'hopes' for US tariffs exemption
  3. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says
  4. Italy's centre-right set to share top posts with 5-star movement
  5. Brussels condemns tear gas in Kosovo parliament
  6. Finland pays billionaire €400,000 in EU farm subsidies
  7. 44 leaders sign up for Africa free trade area deal
  8. British 'blue' passports to be made in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. EU summit takes hard look at Russia
  2. Germany casts doubt on Austrian intelligence sharing
  3. EU leaders set for 'stormy debate' on digital tax at summit
  4. EU praises Turkey on migrant deal despite Greek misery
  5. Judicial reforms 'restore balance', Poland tells EU
  6. Whistleblower fears for life as US arrests Malta bank chair
  7. Behind the scenes at Monday's EU talks on Russia
  8. US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections