Egypt toughens visa rules for Sudanese nationals fleeing war
Egypt has announced a new policy requiring all citizens of neighbouring Sudan to obtain visas before crossing the border as a United States and Saudi Arabia-brokered ceasefire took effect in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
On Saturday, the Egyptian foreign ministry implemented new regulations that ended a longstanding exemption for children, women, and elderly men, citing a crackdown on “illegal activities,” including fraud.
Over the past two months, more than 200,000 Sudanese nationals have entered Egypt, primarily through land crossings, due to the ongoing conflict between the army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by Burhan’s former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo. These clashes have resulted in the deaths of over 1,800 people, according to a monitoring group, and displaced over 1.9 million individuals.
The Egyptian foreign ministry stated that the new visa procedures aim to regulate the entry of Sudanese citizens into Egypt after more than 50 days of crisis in Sudan. The ministry clarified that the new requirements are not meant to prevent or limit the entry of Sudanese nationals but rather to address illegal activities carried out by individuals and groups on the Sudanese side of the border who profit from forging entry visas.
Egypt highlighted that it had already welcomed more than 200,000 Sudanese citizens since the crisis began, in addition to the approximately five million Sudanese citizens who were already residing in Egypt prior to the conflict. The ministry assured that its consulates in Sudan have been equipped with the necessary electronic devices to efficiently implement these regulations, ensuring the orderly entry of Sudanese citizens.
People who have undertaken the arduous journey to the Egyptian-Sudanese border have expressed dissatisfaction with the poor conditions and long waiting times. Some individuals attempting to cross the Ashkeit border reported being turned back due to the new rule. The 24-hour ceasefire in Khartoum, which commenced on Saturday, aimed to facilitate humanitarian assistance and provide respite from the intense fighting.
While previous ceasefires had allowed for limited humanitarian access, aid agencies continued to face obstacles such as ongoing fighting, bureaucratic restrictions, and looting. Médecins Sans Frontières, a medical aid agency, reported that its staff had been stopped by RSF soldiers and coerced into making statements that were later circulated by the forces.
The conflict between Sudan’s army and the RSF, which has operated legally since 2017 as a parallel force, stemmed from disagreements over plans to integrate their troops and reorganize their chain of command as part of a transition towards civilian rule following the popular uprising that ousted President Omar al-Bashir four years ago.