Sudan, an Unexpected Haven for Syrian Refugees

Published: 9/Apr/2019
Source: Orient XXI (Paris)

Migrations, a Vanishing Horizon · With most other doors firmly closed to them, Syrians escaping the war have found a welcome respite in Sudan.

First out was Egypt, in the summer of 2013. Then came Jordan and Lebanon, in 2014 and early 2015, and finally Turkey, one year later. Even Algeria, a country that had insisted on maintaining a welcoming attitude towards those escaping the war, closed its doors to Syrians. Country after country shut their borders and imposed visa restrictions, effectively barring Syrian nationals from entering. Within a few years, almost every neighbouring country had closed its doors to refugees from Syria.

Except for one. Sudan, the large African nation forming a socio-cultural bridge between the Arabic-speaking north and linguistically diverse Sub Saharan south, made a decision: it would not restrict entry for Syrians. Borders would remain open, and Syrian nationals would be allowed to stay as they pleased on Sudanese soil. Until today, that remains the same: Sudan is one of few countries possible to enter with a Syrian passport.

“All other doors have been closed for us. There is a joke saying that you can only enter heaven now with a Syrian passport,” says Rawan a woman in her mid-thirties from Damascus who prefers to only use her first name.


Accessing nationality

Another man, Hay, in his fifties, runs a popular Syrian restaurant in the centre of Khartoum. He says that his total turnover has dropped from 12,000 to 3,000 dollars per month since the crisis began.

‘The money doesn’t come in any more. I am waiting to see what will happen, if things don’t improve I am going to try to relocate to the Emirates,’ he says.

The reason Hay is able to consider the Gulf country as an option is that both him and his family hold Sudanese citizenship, since a couple of years back. The former government opened up the possibility for Syrians to apply for a Sudanese nationality, only six months after arriving in the country. According to news reports, 4,000 people had been granted citizenship in 2016, meaning that the final number is much higher today.

“My friend got his passport in 2018 and he was number 10,000 something. So at least 10,000 people have got the Sudanese citizenship,” says the young man from Syria.

For most people there has been one reason to apply for the Sudanese passport: it opens doors–if not many, then at least more than the Syrian one does. It is rather straightforward for Sudanese citizens to live and work in the Gulf, something that has become nearly impossible for Syrians after the onset of the war.


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Themes: Naturalisation and Marriage, Nationality and Refugees
Regions: Sudan
Year: 2019