Protection and Dignity for Genocide Affected Refugees Must Be Prioritized

Today marks World Refugee Day. It is a time to commemorate the bravery and resilience of refugees all over the world and to recognize their plight. Today, however, we must draw special attention to the plight of Darfuri refugee, many of whom have been ignored for years.

For more than 15 years, the Sudanese Government has been carrying out a horrific and brutal string of attacks against civilians in Darfur. These systematic attacks include mass shootings, the bombing of villages, the burning of villages, the restriction of humanitarian aid, and the utilization of rape as a weapon of war leaving women and girls the most affected community. The majority of those who have been forced to flee and unable to return home. There are currently an estimated 3 million people from Darfur in Internally Displaced Camps (IDCs) and many more living in as refugees in the neighboring countries

Nearly 1 million people have sought safety by crossing the border into neighboring countries- an estimated 377,000 refugees reside in Chad alone. However, the socio-economic instability in combination with the harsh climate of the Sahel region has left Chad inhospitable for refugees. Additionally, the lack of security and access to resources in Chad has created competition for resources between locals and refugees. These feuds have only served to worsen the humanitarian crisis. Moreover, an uncounted, yet substantial,  number of refugees have fled to Egypt, Jordan, the Central African Republic, Libya, South Sudan, Israel, Ghana, Syria, and other countries. These refugees remain in vulnerable situations: living for years without physical protection and having limited or no recognition from the UNHCR. In many cases, host countries have been mired in conflicts, such as the circumstances in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Libya subjecting Darfuri refugees to the same conditions that they fled in the first place. Consequently, thousands of refugees fled one war zone to another, exacerbating their suffering beyond imagination.

In some cases, refugees are sent back to face the very genocidal regime they had fled from. There have been multiple incidents of such an affront to human rights norms. In December of 2015, 700 Darfuri refugees were forced out of Jordan and back to Sudan. In September of 2016, 48 refugees were forcibly deported from Italy. Upon their arrival back home, the refugees were detained by the Sudanese Government and severely beaten. At the beginning of this month, around 187 refugees were deported from Chad back to Sudan. In some countries, Sudanese refugees face imprisonment and deportation for trivial reasons; many refugees face imprisonment for doing things such as accepting a job or demanding protection. Most of those deported are refugees registered and recognized by the UNHCR. However, UNHCR failed to provide protection or to convince the Jordanian authorities to stop their violence and deportation tactics. We condemn such initiatives and ask that world leaders take in Darfuri genocide survives asylum seekers with open arms, for they have suffered enough and needs to be protected.

Refugees continue to face unimagine challenges and are still threatened by the malicious agenda of the Sudanese Government. Those in camps lack access to health, education, food, and other forms of humanitarian aid. There are children born into these camps and the lack of education, proper nutrition or health care is subjecting an entire generation to loss and uncertain future.

This year the Sudanese Government has clearly shown signs of wanting to dismantle IDP camps in Darfur. The government has denied these allegations but the course of action they have chosen to undertake suggests differently. The government has denounced these camps as nothing more than hideouts for rebel groups, a blatant lie. These camps are inhabited by civilians seeking safety from a regime determined to slaughter them. The government has stressed that people are voluntarily leaving these camps. Yet, past statements by the government highlight their plans to force people out of these camps. But even once people have left these camps, they find that their homes have been taken over by the very people who had driven them out.

There have been recent developments showing that the Sudanese Government cut down over 2,000 fruit trees. This tactic is designed to ensure that refugees have no place to return because there is no sustainable food source. Additionally, water prices have skyrocketed leaving people to drink unclean and unsafe water while their livestock, the backbone of their livelihood and another source of food, are dying of dehydration. The Sudanese economic crisis has been disastrous for all those in Sudan, but it has been particularly horrible for all those in Darfur.

And while countless of innocents are suffering in Darfur, the international community has moved towards rewarding Sudan for their crimes against humanity. Last October, President Trump lifted US sanctions on Sudan, effectively serving to further embolden President al-Bashir. The Sudanese Government has worked on changing the narrative, trying to convince the international community that the government is no longer carrying out their attacks on civilians. This fabricated lie has been accepted without hesitation by the international community as evidenced by the US’s warming relations.

Therefore, we must demand that the US reevaluate its policy towards Sudan. The warming of US-Sudan relations has only served to further enable a known genocidaire, therefore, making the US an accomplice. In addition, today we must show our support for Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who will be briefing the United Nations about the situation in Darfur. It is imperative to speak up and let our world leaders know that we demand accountability that will allow refugees to return home without fear.

We call on the United States to grant protection and exceptional admission for Sudanese genocide affected refugees particularly from Darfur and other crises affected regions.

We call on the United States to provide more funding for UN agencies to provide Sudanese refugees with swift resettlement process and sufficient humanitarian support.

We call on the United States and the United Nations Security Council to press Sudan to end attacks on civilians and to establish an environment of accountability and protection so that the people of Sudan can live with peace and stability.

We call on all of you to speak up for genocide survivors and demand that the international community prioritize the protection and life with dignity for those who have been unjustly forced out of their homes, at local and internationally.