Egypt has announced stricter visa regulations for citizens of neighboring Sudan. The new policy requires all Sudanese nationals to obtain visas before crossing the border into Egypt. This decision comes as a United States and Saudi Arabia-brokered ceasefire takes effect in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The Egyptian government justifies the move as a crackdown on illegal activities, including visa forgery. The new regulations mark a reversal of the longstanding exemption for women, children, and elderly men.
The recent decision by the Egyptian foreign ministry represents a reversal of a longstanding exemption that allowed children, women, and elderly men from Sudan to enter Egypt without visas. The exemption was previously in place to provide humanitarian relief to vulnerable groups. However, the new regulations now require all Sudanese citizens, regardless of age or gender, to obtain visas before crossing the border.
Since the outbreak of fighting two months ago between the Sudanese army, led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), commanded by former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, over 200,000 Sudanese nationals have sought refuge in Egypt. Most of them have entered through land crossings. The intense clashes have resulted in the deaths of over 1,800 people and the displacement of more than 1.9 million.
The Egyptian foreign ministry stated that the implementation of new visa procedures aims to regulate the entry of Sudanese citizens into Egypt after more than 50 days of crisis in their home country. The ministry clarified that the requirements are not intended to prevent or limit the entry of Sudanese nationals but rather to combat illegal activities, such as the forging of entry visas by individuals and groups on the Sudanese side of the border.
Egypt highlighted its ongoing support for Sudanese citizens, emphasizing that it has already welcomed over 200,000 Sudanese nationals since the start of the crisis. Additionally, Egypt was already home to approximately five million Sudanese citizens before the war. The Egyptian foreign ministry assured that its consulates in Sudan have been equipped with the necessary electronic devices to implement the new regulations efficiently, ensuring a precise, rapid, and safe process for the orderly entry of Sudanese citizens.
Sudanese nationals who have embarked on the journey to the Egyptian-Sudanese border have voiced complaints about poor conditions and long wait times. The implementation of the new visa requirements has already affected some individuals attempting to cross the Ashkeit border. There are reports of people being turned back due to the enforcement of the new rules, causing frustration and uncertainty among those seeking refuge or travel to Egypt.
The new visa regulations coincide with a 24-hour ceasefire in Khartoum, creating a temporary window for humanitarian assistance and allowing a break from the intense fighting. Previous ceasefires had granted limited access for humanitarian aid, but aid agencies reported facing obstacles such as fighting, bureaucratic control, and looting. The current ceasefire aims to provide better conditions for aid delivery and support the well-being of the affected population.
With the implementation of new visa regulations, Egypt aims to combat visa forgery and regulate the entry of Sudanese citizens into its territory. As the conflict in Sudan persists, Egypt continues to grapple with the challenges of accommodating and providing support for the large influx of Sudanese nationals seeking refuge. The new regulations, while intended to address concerns related to illegal activities, may also impact the journey and status of individuals seeking safety and opportunities in Egypt.