Captured in Sudan fleeing forced military conscription

Where is my family: captured in Sudan fleeing forced military conscription

  • Published on
    June 30, 2024
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  • Category:
    Law & Policy, Slavery In conflict
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Migrants of different nationalities are being detained at military facilities in Sudan according to the BBC . Many of those migrants are Eritrean, fleeing the country’s indefinite military conscription which many feel denies them a future. Migrants in the region are entrusting their lives to people smugglers who often pressure them to ask relatives abroad to pay even more money to stop the smugglers from harming their family members, only to abandon them further down in the journey. Exploiters often target young and newly arrived migrants promising to accompany them safely out of Sudan for a fee. However, instead, they are deserted far from home or worse, in the crosshairs of another country’s violent conflict. In addition, the hostile reception and subsequent undocumented migration status they find in many places leave them extremely vulnerable to modern slavery.

Viral video shows sister captive and beaten

Mihret Gebru, a young woman from Eritrea was watching two viral videos on her phone with concern. People from the Horn of Africa were being beaten and assaulted by armed men in Sudan. But her initial concern turned to horror when she spotted her sister in the group of frightened captives. Her sister had left home a few months ago to escape Eritrea’s oppressive forced indefinite military conscription and now she was a captive of one of the two forces fighting for control of Sudan since April 2023 when the country descended into chaos.

Gebru said:

“Instantly I was able to identify Luwam, who is wearing the orange scarf I know very well – and her shoes, which can be partly seen,”

According to the UN, there are more than 147,000 Eritreans and around 70,000 Ethiopians in conflict-plagued Sudan. Similar reports of the army detaining asylum seekers and refugees were also received by the UN’s refugee agency. Photos of Gebru’s sister’s group show them crammed into a room in a warehouse. Gebru clearly spotted her sister in several instances due to her distinctive orange scarf. Another Eritrean identified one of her neighbors among the group. Since their initial spotting several months ago, no one has been able to get any more information about the captive’s whereabouts or their wellbeing.

“Please help us, the UN, anyone… we are desperate.”

More than 15,000 people are believed to have been killed in the conflict in Sudan and despite international efforts to stop the fighting, the warring parties remain unable to agree to a ceasefire. Some told the BBC say their relatives who had fled Eritrea were able to register as refugees in Sudan but have since gone missing and are reportedly being held by the Sudanese military.

Two young brothers who left together last year aiming for South Sudan told their family in Eritrea they had been approached by smugglers who promised to help them make the journey safely. The family now feels certain the young men were abandoned and may have become separated. Their three sisters say the process of trying to find any information from the ICRC, the UN, or the military is incredibly frustrating.

One of the young men’s three sisters said,

“We beg the army to release them, these are innocent young people who left their country with the hope of reaching a safe destination in South Sudan Please help us, the UN, anyone… we are desperate.”

Migrants, like these women’s siblings, who are fleeing violence, conflict, forced conscription, and other intolerable conditions leave their homes hoping to find freedom and safety. But as their experience shows, a lack of safe legal channels for migrants to exercise their right to move or claim asylum is leading to increasing levels of exploitation and sometimes death.

The Freedom United community is calling on governments everywhere to implement safe routes to migrate. The inhospitable reception migrants currently find and the subsequent undocumented migration status they are forced to accept create the conditions for exploitation and modern slavery to thrive.

Stand with us and sign our petition calling for safe migration for all.

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