We Saw Hell At Borders – Nigerian Returnees

We Saw Hell At Borders – Nigerian Returnees

The first batch of 376 Nigerians fleeing the crisis in Sudan have been evacuated home from Egypt amid cheers and relief from family members and government officials.

It was tales of harrowing experiences, as some of the evacuees, who spoke with reporters, narrated their ordeal while fleeing from the crisis- ridden North African country.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the evacuees arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Wednesday at about 11:35 pm on-board a Nigerian Air force Airplane and Air peace Aircraft.

Some of them said they spent hellish days without food or water in the desert when they were abandoned by the vehicles conveying them to the Egyptian borders.

They revealed that they also had to face the harsh policies of the Egyptian officials who delayed their entry into Egypt, as they were requested to provide visas, an unacceptable treatment for a people fleeing conflict.

One of the evacuees who gave his name as Mohammed spoke on arrival in Abuja.

He said, “The crisis in Sudan is so terrible that we hid for some days before we were evacuated to the Egyptian borders where we faced another hellish experience in the hands of the Egyptian authorities before the intervention of the Nigerian president. I wish never to have this kind of experience again, it’s devastating.”

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A female student evacuee, a third-year physiotherapy undergraduate, said “When the war started, I didn’t know because we were sleeping, we just started hearing gunshots and rockets, and we had to leave where we were for safety.

“We had to leave Khartoum for Egypt and it was totally hard for us. Some of us don’t have money and life there was very expensive. There were pregnant women and children who were sick.”

She narrated how they slept inside a car during the dark hours which put them at great risk, adding that the situation deteriorated when they got to the borders of Egypt where officials there dehumanised them for over five days.

Another student, Hakinabrat Hamzat, while recounting his ordeal, said, “It was all of a sudden. We never expected it. We just woke up in the morning and started hearing the sounds of bombs and everyone had to start fleeing.

“I left Nigeria to study in Sudan because studying in Nigeria is not easy. I studied at the International University of Africa.”

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The crisis in Sudan has so far led to the death of nearly 600 people and displaced thousands of others as many countries have evacuated their citizens from the beleaguered country.

Some female returnees said they were sexually harassed and were so broke to the extent of stealing from the shops.

A returnee female student told journalists on arrival at the International Airport, Abuja, that they faced humiliation and slept in the open.

“We spent all the money we had. We were so hungry and thirsty. They were harassing us sexually. There was no food, no water to drink. It got to a point where we picked things from shops and ran away,” the returnee female student stated about her excruciating experience while at the border.

Another female student told the BBC Hausa Service in an interview that their legs were swollen due to long hours of stay in the buses.

Narrating his experience, a male student said the situation was so bad that they even had to pay money before they were allowed to urinate.

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He expressed hope that the war would soon end to enable him go back to Sudan and complete just a semester to round up his programme.

While receiving the evacuees at the Airport, the director of Migration, National Commission for Refugees, Migrant and Internally Displaced Persons, Mrs Catherine Udida, said 94 evacuees were flown in by the Air force plane C130, while Air peace had evacuated 282 people.

The chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, in her reaction said it was a huge relief to receive the returnees, bearing in mind what they went through in Sudan.

The minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq; the permanent secretary in the ministry,  Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo; director general of NEMA, Mustapha Habib, security officials and some family members were at the General Aviation Terminal of the airport to receive  the returnees.

The Nigerians are said to be happy to be back home after the harrowing experience on their way to the Egyptian border as well as the difficulties and frustration they faced at the border.

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