The European Union and individual member states risk making an already terrible human rights situation in Sudan even worse. One year after opening up to the government of President Omar al-Bashir, the EU prioritizes the short-term goal of limiting immigration to Europe over protecting people from violence and abuse.
These are some of the conclusions in PAX’s policy brief published today, Sudan Alert: Promoting civic space in Sudan and priorities for the European Union.
“It is not just that refugees are coming through Sudan trying to get to Europe. The government in Sudan creates refugees, in part because it has a history of killing its own people. Europe should question if they want to work with such a regime. But if so, don´t close your eyes to ongoing human rights abuses and at least make sure improving human rights is a criteria,” says Nico Plooijer of PAX.
The Sudan Alert finds that engaging with and rehabilitating the government of Sudan without the proof that it takes responsibility to protect the rights and freedoms of all people in Sudan sends a clear message to abusive members of the regime and security services, to civil society, journalists and opposition activists that the EU and its member states can be held to ransom so long as regimes promise to reduce the number of migrants arriving in the EU.
This is especially frustrating since the EU and its member states do have some leverage with Sudan. Considerable funds are available for supporting projects there. But some of this funding has been committed so quickly it raises the question as to how much local engagement there was. In addition, oversight of this funding is not transparent. The need for independent evaluation of the effects of European funding for migration programmes is urgent.
“Politicians who say that stopping refugees from leaving Sudan works should consider the costs, whether human or financial,” says Plooijer. “The security forces controlling Sudan´s borders are well known for their atrocities in Darfur. And they’re already threatening the EU that if we don´t give more money, they’ll ‘open the desert,’ and let everyone through.”
This policy brief is a follow-up to a similar policy report from last year. PAX recommends that the EU and its member states use upcoming opportunities to reiterate their commitment to the rights and freedoms and demand concrete, verifiable progress from the government of Sudan on guaranteeing these basic freedoms and human rights.