Khartoum "safe as ghost houses" for asylum seekers facing removal - Refugee Council
June 6, 2006

Khartoum “safe as ghost houses” for asylum seekers facing removal

A new report commissioned by the Aegis Trust details the dangers faced by hundreds of survivors of genocidal violence in Darfur who, having fled to the UK, are now threatened with removal to Khartoum as unsuccessful asylum seekers.

Safe as Ghost Houses: Prospects for Darfur African Survivors Removed to Khartoum provides substantial evidence in support of concerns expressed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a position paper issued in February 2006, which recommended that “states provide international protection to Sudanese asylum-seekers from Darfur of ‘non-Arab’ ethnic background… according them recognition as refugees”. The ‘ghost houses’ of the title are anonymous addresses used by Sudanese security forces as informal prisons, in which there is no regard for human rights and the security forces are able to torture and kill at will.

Despite evidence that black African Darfuris are not safe in Darfur or Khartoum, the most recent Home Office Position Paper (5 May 2006), states that ‘ordinary non-Arab ethnic Darfuris are not at risk of persecution outside the Darfur States and it is considered that it is not unduly harsh to expect them to relocate to an area within Sudan in which they will be safe. Freedom of movement outside the war zones is generally unhindered. Failed asylum seekers are returned to Khartoum therefore they may remain there or safely relocate to another area.’

Since 2003, black Africans have been systematically ‘ethnically cleansed’ from the Darfur region by Arab militia and Sudanese Government forces, with over 200,000 killed and around 2.2 million internally displaced. Around three million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance because of this situation. The Home Office offers no breakdown of the ethnicity of claimants from Sudan but the Aegis Trust estimates there to be around one thousand Darfur African asylum seekers in the UK, many of whom are at risk of removal.

A Refugee Council spokesperson said:

“Anyone who reads this powerful report will conclude that it is completely unsafe to return people who’ve fled from Darfur to the UK back to any part of the Sudan. It demolishes the Home Office’s claim that Darfuris aren’t at risk of persecution outside the Darfur states and shows that it is just as dangerous for them in the Khartoum region.

The Refugee Council has always recognised that removal is part of a credible asylum system but we also believe that the safety of individuals should come first. We hope ministers will study this excellent and timely report and decide to halt all removals of Darfuris until the situation in the Sudan radically improves.

Having fled from the horrors of Darfur, refugees should be able to rebuild their lives in safety in the UK”.