Our man in Khartoum

Sudan is grappling with domestic and economic problems. As if that was not enough, the country also fell victim last spring to hyperinflation and the coronavirus pandemic. Gyalzur Tsewang Dorje, Swiss Immigration Liaison Officer in Khartoum, supports the Sudanese authorities. Here is an account of his experiences.

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Economic migrants return home

“Owing to the difficult political and economic situation in their own country, a large number of Sudanese labourers migrated to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in recent few years. However, when the pandemic began many of these people lost their job and were forced to return home. A lack of funds meant that some of them were not able to make it home without assistance. Sudan therefore organised repatriation flights, not just for them but also for other Sudanese who had become stranded abroad.”

“The IOM (International Organization for Migration) contacted the Swiss embassy in Khartoum early on and offered its support. Focus was placed on developing a safety concept, providing returnees with support in quarantine and distributing personal protective equipment. This proved challenging because assistance had to be coordinated with the local authorities and in place within a short space of time. The situation in the country was quite hectic and confusing at times. Ultimately, the measures worked well, all things considered.”

The situation remains critical

“With our help, safe arrival procedures were established successfully and went into operation at Khartoum’s airports, at Port Sudan in Sawakin and at the border crossings to Egypt. However, the coronavirus situation in Sudan remained critical until the end of the year, with infections rising in many parts of the country. The healthcare system, which even before the outbreak of the pandemic was underdeveloped, has reached breaking point. Economic difficulties and inflation have compounded the situation. We continue to provide support and hope the situation will improve soon.”

Impressions from Tunisia

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Impressions from Sudan

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The situation in Tunisia

Switzerland and Tunisia have had a strong migration partnership since 2012. The spread of the coronavirus was a major test of endurance for the 60,000 or so migrants there, most of whom have no official residence status, work in the informal economy and have no source of income owing to the months-long lockdown. As part of a 12-month IOM project, Switzerland has been providing financial support for 2,200 vulnerable migrants since mid-2020. The funds cover the cost of food, accommodation and medication in order to alleviate the human and economic impact of the pandemic on this particular group. The project is in line with Switzerland’s foreign policy on migration with respect to the central Mediterranean migration route: the support seeks to discourage people from making the perilous boat crossing of the Mediterranean and thus irregular migration to Europe and Switzerland.

The situation in Bosnia

Since 2018, Switzerland has provided humanitarian aid to stranded migrants in Bosnia. As part of efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, SEM provides assistance in the area of hygiene – including the distribution of protective equipment and the commissioning of hand-washing facilities – at migration reception centres. SEM also launched a project last year in cooperation with Caritas to improve the living conditions of migrants both inside and outside the centres.