More than 14,000 Sudanese people have already crossed the border into neighboring Egypt to flee the conflict in their country. On arrival, they say there are chaotic scenes.
ASWAN — In a makeshift tent, as Nubian music buzzes in the background, Aïda Hussein prepares some “jabana." She sells this spiced coffee for a small sum to her compatriots, exhausted after their days-long ordeal escaping the violent battles that have shaken Sudan for more than two weeks.
The clashes between Abdel Fattah Al Burhan’s armed forces and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have already killed more than 528 people and injured 4,599, according to official reports. The generals shared power following a coup in October of 2021. Egypt supports the Sudanese armed forces, despite not having officially positioned themselves in relation to the conflict.
Fighting continues despite a ceasefire. "The scale and speed at which events are unfolding in Sudan (are) unprecedented," the United Nations said in a statement on Sunday, before sending their chief of humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, to the region.
While most of the 75,000 people who fled according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are internally displaced, some were able to take refuge abroad. According to the Egyptian authorities, more than 14,000 Sudanese nationals crossed into Egypt last week.
They arrived through one of two border crossings. Some 20,000 people have also taken refuge in Chad, very close to western Darfur. Another 6,000 have taken refuge in the Central African Republic, while others have gone to Ethiopia.
One of the first drop-off points for refugees is Karkar’s bus station. It is a three-hour drive from the border and around 30 kilometers south of the touristic city of Aswan. New arrivals describe a chaotic reception, a situation they did not expect from a combat-free zone.
The situation is particularly critical at Arqin, a crossing in the middle of the desert, where buses have flooded in the past days. "The resources available on the Sudanese side are very primitive; there is not enough water, food, toilets or medical services," says Ilham Fadul, who arrived on Saturday.
Food is running out
The Sudanese-American woman waited there for four days. "During the checks, the Sudanese did not have enough people and the Egyptians wanted to verify everything," says the Khartoum resident, whose building was bombed.
The conditions described at the second crossing point at Qustal-Achkit are less difficult, because of its proximity to Wadi Halfa. Men under 50 have to go to the town to get visas.
"The locals have opened schools and mosques to refugees," says Islam Awad, who arrived in Egypt on Monday. But the situation could deteriorate if the influx increases. "The city is crowded and food is running out," he warns.
People fleeing from Sudan arrive at a bus station in Aswan, Egypt, on April 25, 2023.
Radwan Abu Elmagd/ZUMA
Four million Sudanese
Those displaced condemn the lack of humanitarian aid on the Sudanese side. In Egypt, only the national branch of the Red Cross is present. The United Nations agencies are waiting for the green light from the authorities to enter the military controlled area.
If you have money, you can escape, if not, you die.
"For now, all the aid deployed by our team of 135 staff and volunteers has come from our warehouses, but we will soon receive help from our partners in the International Federation of the Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations," says Ramy El Nazer, the executive director of the Egyptian Red Cross.
For the Sudanese who made it across the border, this is not the end of their journey. Some have relatives waiting for them in Cairo. Some four million Sudanese now live in Egypt, according to the IOM, the largest foreign community in the country. Others already aim to head abroad.
The majority of Sudanese nationals who have arrived in Egypt since the beginning of the conflict have the means to travel. Transport prices have soared and a bus ticket to the border now costs around $400.
"If you have money, you can escape, if not, you die," says Aida, the jabana seller, whose three sons are trapped in the capital.