Source: Fair Observer (California)
By Sumaya Almajdoub
Sudan shows how granting more freedoms for refugees to legally live, study and work can yield great results in country with its own troubled past.
Syrians have found refuge in an unexpected place — the Republic of Sudan. The streets of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, are bustling with new Syrian restaurants, bakeries, and sweets shops. One shop, Anas’ Shwarma, opened in 2014, and employs over 40 Syrian refugees who fled the war. Sudan, whose own civil war created millions of refugees, is now a top destination country for many fleeing the war in Syria. Today, the Syrian community has grown to 100,000 according to Sudan’s Commission of Refugees, other estimates place that number at 250,000. It is Sudan, not the wealthy countries of the West, that is providing a model for alleviating the Syrian refugee crisis.
Sudan’s refugee population has been growing since the 1990s, which is no surprise given its shared border with Eritrea and the ongoing civil war in now independent South Sudan. But what is prompting distant Syrians to seek refuge there today?
Sudan is currently the only country in the world that allows Syrians to enter without a visa and without imposing restrictions when they arrive. This has made Sudan a top choice for Syrian refugees. According to Usamah Mohamed, a Sudanese writer based in Khartoum, “Syrians appear to feel welcomed; they had no issues integrating in society.” Not only has the Sudanese government kept the visa-waiver program, but it also granted Syrians the right to work and education. This means that any Syrian can enroll in a public Sudanese school or college,and apply to jobs without needing a permit. In Lebanon, many Syrians have to pay an annual residency fee of $200 if they are not registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In Turkey, getting a work permit is so difficult, with less than 14,000 of the 3 million Syrian refugees have been able to obtain one.
Sudan is both a destination and a transit point for many Syrians. Some stay briefly en route to Egypt or even to Europe by crossing from Sudan to Libya. Sudan has offered a citizenship track for any Syrian who has resided in the country for over six months. According to one estimate, over 1,000 Syrians have obtained Sudanese citizenship. Having a Sudanese passport can be incredibly valuable to Syrian refugees as it allows them to travel more freely since many countries have stopped issuing them visas.