“Human trafficking is a crime like drugs and weapons trading. We need to exert united efforts to stop it through hard punishment and international support of countries affected by the phenomena,” were the words of Sudanese Minister of Justice Mohamed Bushara Dosa at the opening of the African Union’s Regional Conference on Human Trafficking and Smuggling in the Horn of Africa on October 13. To tackle this issue, the U.S. State Department's Office of the Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights is working alongside international partners and the Sudanese Government to strengthen programs to combat human trafficking and assist newly-arrived South Sudanese who are fleeing conflict in South Sudan.
On a recent visit to Sudan, representatives from the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration were able to discuss and observe the systems and policies put in place by the Sudanese Government and its international partners to combat human trafficking and assist these vulnerable populations. Officials from both governments were able to share their experiences and discuss opportunities for further collaboration.
The U.S. delegation participated in meetings with government ministries and international organizations in Khartoum and also traveled to Kassala and Geradef States in the east and White Nile State in the southern part of the country to observe programs in action.
In partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), action by Sudanese authorities in the east has resulted in improved security in refugee camps for Eritrean nationals, increased law enforcement action against smugglers and traffickers, and better protection and assistance for some categories of victims. UNHCR has recorded a sharp drop in reports of potential smuggling and trafficking incidents and a 58 percent decrease in incidents in eastern Sudan over the same period in 2013. As a sign of its commitment to tackling human trafficking within and outside its borders, Sudan hosted the Regional Conference on Human Trafficking and Smuggling in the Horn of Africa on October 13-16.
In the south, Sudan’s White Nile State is hosting a large portion of the 96,000 individuals who have fled insecurity in South Sudan since December 2013 and sought refuge in Sudan. The U.S. delegation was able to speak to some of these new arrivals who expressed fear of return to South Sudan, but indicated they would go back if there was peace. Meetings with local officials also highlighted the Government of Sudan’s efforts to support these new arrivals and help integrate them back into local communities where many of them worked and lived prior to South Sudan’s separation.
About the Author: Bindi Patel serves as the Refugee Coordinator for the Horn of Africa at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.