DONGOLA, May 4, 2014 (AFP) – Alaadeen put himself in the hands of people smugglers to take him somewhere better than impoverished eastern Sudan but he never made it.
The 22-year-old Sudanese man was among 10 illegal immigrants who died when traffickers abandoned their group of about 300 in the scorching desert on the Sudanese-Libyan border, a relative in Alaadeen’s hometown of Kassala told AFP by telephone on Sunday.
“He was looking for a better life,” said the relative who asked not to be named. “Some people with him told us that he had died.”
Alaadeen, whose full name the relative declined to reveal, was the son of a trader doing business on the Sudanese-Eritrean border near Kassala, he said. Yesterday Al-Sudani newspaper said that the young man and several other Sudanese were among the 10 victims.
The foreign ministry said the dead also included two Ethiopians, an Eritrean, and a victim whose nationality was unknown.
The relative said Alaadeen had gone with the traffickers of his own accord. “He was taken by smugglers from the Kassala area to Khartoum before going on to Dongola (a Nile River town about 500 kilometres northwest of the capital),” he said.
Libya’s border is more than a day’s drive from there.
The desert region stretching from eastern Sudan up through Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula is a major route for African migrants seeking a better life. Thousands of Eritreans, in particular, make the journey each year. Many head for Israel while others try to get to Europe.
“Some of them try to go through Egypt. Some of them try to go through Libya,” said a source familiar with the situation. “They would try to cross the Mediterranean Sea via Libya.”
Sudanese officials announced the rescue of the illegal migrants last Wednesday, saying traffickers had dumped their victims in the border region’s scorching desert, where 10 died. Sudan’s security service told Alaadeen’s family that he was among the casualties and they had found his identification, the relative said.
Sudanese and Libyan troops initially rescued about 300 hungry and thirsty survivors, but they later came across even more. A convoy of trucks escorted by security forces from both countries delivered the migrants to safety in Dongola on Saturday after a journey of hundreds of kilometres across the desert.
Women and children were among the survivors who reached the town. Most of the victims appeared to be Ethiopian or Eritrean, but there were some Sudanese as well.
An AFP journalist in Dongola said that the migrants were still at an immigration facility in the town early yesterday.
The International Organisation for Migration told AFP that it hoped to “provide necessary assistance” to the group. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, has also said it “would stand ready to provide support” should the migrants be refugees.
At Alaadeen’s family home in Kassala, visitors arrived to offer condolences, and to wonder about what drove the young man away. “I don’t understand why he did this,” said a man who knows the family. “Their economic situation is not bad.”