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After 28 refugee deaths in Khartoum, UNHCR urges Sudan’s warring parties to allow safe passage for civilians

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After 28 refugee deaths in Khartoum, UNHCR urges Sudan’s warring parties to allow safe passage for civilians

4 July 2023

GENEVA — UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply concerned by continued reports of civilians in Sudan, including both internally displaced populations and refugees caught up in the ongoing conflict, becoming indiscriminate casualties of the fighting and being prevented from seeking safety.

It has now been confirmed that on 25 June, 28 refugees hosted by Sudan were killed in Khartoum when the area in which they lived was engulfed by the fighting, with additional refugees injured in the incident. UNHCR is appalled and expresses its deepest condolences to the affected families. We are working to help trace relatives and victims and provide psychosocial and other support.

“Once again, refugees and other civilians are the innocent victims of this tragic war. Both sides must allow civilians to move freely to safer places, ensuring their protection and well-being and respecting their fundamental human rights,” said Mamadou Dian Balde, UNHCR’s Regional Director for the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region. “Everyone must honour international humanitarian law and human rights law and prioritize the safety and well-being of affected communities, including refugees.”

Despite countless calls for all parties to protect non-combatants, innocent civilians including refugees are still being compelled to flee the fighting in extremely dangerous circumstances, and are subjected to harassment, abuse, theft and other criminal acts. Prior to the killing of the 28 refugees, more than 500 refugees attempting to escape the conflict in Khartoum and other affected locations were reportedly intercepted by armed groups on their way to safety and prevented from proceeding. According to the refugees, their belongings were confiscated and the vehicles they were using were seized, leaving them vulnerable and without access to basic necessities such as drinking water and with no means of transport, impeding their passage out of the city.

In West Darfur, where conflict is intensifying, there have also been unconfirmed reports of people being prevented from leaving El Geneina in search of safety, including across the border into Chad. These incidents are unacceptable and underscore the immense challenges faced by civilians seeking safety and security away from conflict zones. 

UNHCR is continuously monitoring the situation of refugees stranded in Khartoum, providing protection counselling through hotlines, and striving to assist them to find safety and means to relocate away from areas affected by the fighting, as the situation allows.

After nine weeks of conflict in Sudan, more than two and a half million people have been displaced within the country and across borders into neighbouring countries. Before this crisis, there were 1.1 million refugees in Sudan, mainly from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Syria.

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