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Syrian Refugees in Sudan: From the hell of gunfire to the agony of asylum

December 19, 2015 (KHARTOUM) - A passerby in the streets of Khartoum can see hundreds of Syrian families who fled the devastating war that swept most of the Mediterranean nation’s territories.

Sudanese and Syrian protesters demonstrate against the continued violence in Syria outside Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum November 23, 2011. (Reuters)

As a result of that carnage, millions of civilians were scattered around the world in search of safety. Like many other countries, Sudan had had its share of these asylum seekers.

In the elite Riyadh and New Extension suburbs of Khartoum, one can see a lot of small businesses run by Syrian nationals. Some of these shops sell delicious Syrian food substances that range from candy to fast food, attracting noteworthy numbers of customers.

Some of these refugees have also opened a lot of crafts shops.

These small businesses provide lots of Syrian refugees with what can be described as scratchy livelihoods , given the harsh economic conditions of Sudan.

An estimated 105 thousand Syrian refugees now live in Sudan. The Government has given them the rights of residence , movement, work, free education and medication . Some philanthropic Sudanese families have hosted Syrian families who cannot afford the high house rents.

Compared to the many Syrian refugees who found a means of bread winning, hundreds of Syrian asylum seekers who failed to be classified as refugees depend on handouts from local charities and from Sudanese and Syrian traders .

Some of these refugees beg in the City streets or around mosques and marketplaces.

Mazin Abul Khair , an official of ‘the office for serving Syrian families in Sudan’ said just about 100 Syrian nationals live on begging.

“The office has tried to help these but they declined to accept food baskets and financial aid we offered them, because they feel begging is far more lucrative than what we give,’’ Khair told Sudan Tribune.

He said in the year 2012 some Syrian traders living in Sudan had set up a committee to take care of the refugees .The committee, that started with six families , now aids 700 families .

He said his office is run on voluntary basis and depends , primarily, on Syrian traders and some Sudanese businessmen. The office also receives some assistance from local charities.

The office offers a food basket for each of the registered families. It also provides job opportunities to the youth and pays house rents for the poor families.

Khair lamented the fact that many Syrian children could not continue with their education though the Sudanese Government had exempted all Syrian refugee children from school fees. "This is because of the difference in dialect and the difficult educational environment here," he said.

To secure the future of these children , the office has embarked on the establishment of a Syrian school , he said, adding that the office has already obtained all the required paper work and is now looking for funding for the school.

Sudanese refugees commissioner al-Mardi Salih said they strive to find lodgings to the Syrian refugees.

He said the Government of Sudan had accorded the Syrian refugees all the rights of citizenship enjoyed by any Sudanese national.

Salih also said his commission has embarked on the registration of these Syrians , giving them ‘’guest IDs’’ that allow them access to free education and medical care.

‘’ In the long run we can provide these people with housing in the form of camps in Khartoum. We can also give them sums to rent homes,’’ he said.

(ST)