Syrian Refugee Stranded in Sudan Faces Desperate Situation

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CORRECTION / A man off loads a belongings of refugees from Sudan in Metema, Ethiopia on May 4, 2023. More than 15,000 people have fled Sudan via Metema since fighting broke out in Khartoum in mid-April, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration, with around a thousand arrivals registered per day on average. (Photo by Amanuel Sileshi / AFP)

In a heart-wrenching tale of displacement and uncertainty, Kareem, a Syrian refugee who fled his war-torn homeland two years ago, now finds himself trapped in Sudan amidst a battle zone, fearing he may be forced to return to Syria. The 23-year-old had built a stable life in Sudan, working in Khartoum for a company that provided him with a decent salary, a flat, and a car. However, everything changed when violence erupted in the capital city on April 15, destroying parts of Khartoum and shattering Kareem’s newfound stability.

Feeling the looming threat to his safety, Kareem joined a group of over two dozen Syrians and embarked on a costly two-day journey to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, seeking refuge. The evacuation cost them a small fortune, far beyond the normal fare. Kareem believes misfortune is haunting him and his fellow Syrians, stating, “History is repeating itself… We are cursed.”

Now homeless in Port Sudan, Kareem witnesses others managing to escape to safety by securing plane tickets, often dependent on financial resources. He acknowledges that those with money have a higher chance of survival. While Sudan had become a refuge for many Syrians during their civil war, Kareem finds himself unable to leave due to financial constraints. As the youngest member of a modest family, he had been supporting relatives back home with his earnings from Sudan.

Initially, Kareem held onto hope, exploring potential options such as traveling to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia or Ethiopia, but dwindling finances and an expiring passport limit his choices. Over time, his voice notes to the BBC reflect growing despair and resignation. He feels numb and desensitized, with his black hair turning grey. Returning to Syria, which once seemed unthinkable, now appears as a possibility, despite the obligation of compulsory military service.

Efforts to secure a ticket for evacuation prove futile, as flights are fully booked. Kareem shares his dream plan of renewing his passport, acquiring a visitor visa to Egypt, and eventually reaching his sister in Turkey before finding a way to Europe. However, he laments the lack of financial support, emphasizing that his dream could be realized with $3,000.

Kareem’s story represents the plight of countless refugees caught in the crosshairs of conflict, facing uncertainty, and struggling to find a path to safety and stability. The desperation he and others like him endure highlights the pressing need for international support and humanitarian aid to assist those who have been uprooted by war, ensuring they are not left stranded in precarious situations with limited options and resources.