Tonight, the latest programme in Channel 4’s Unreported World strand focuses on Sudan, where Government forces are attacking civilians in the country’s troubled Nuba region. Sadly, conflict in Sudan is far from new – civil war has raged in the country since 1985, and despite a peace agreement in 2005 and the declaration of an independent South Sudan just last year, violence and unrest continue in many of the border regions between the two countries.
Throughout the years, Refugee Action has provided vital support to many refugees who’ve fled Sudan’s conflict. Some, like Peter and his family, arrived in the UK as part of the Gateway Protection Programme – a UN resettlement scheme which gives a small number of vulnerable refugees the chance of a new life in a third country. Peter and his wife had lived for seven years in a refugee camp in Uganda, unable to return home after government forces attacked their city. Three of their four children were born and grew up in the camp, where life was very difficult and opportunities were rare. Despite this, Peter found work as a camp social worker, supporting others in the same situation as him and his family. He applied for resettlement in 2000, but didn’t arrive in the UK until 2006. Refugee Action staff met him at the airport, and supported him to build a new, safe life for himself and his family in the UK. His youngest daughter, Happy, was born in the UK in 2009.
Another Sudanese refugee with an incredible story was Isa, who fled a terrifying life in Sudan and was supported by Get Connected, Refugee Action’s youth project. Isa’s father was killed in the conflict in Darfur, a region of Sudan where many civilians were killed by government-sponsored militia. Forced to become a child soldier at fourteen, he was beaten and made to kill and torture others. He ran away and was sheltered by a priest, who paid another man to smuggle Isa to the UK. When he arrived here he spoke no English and had nowhere to go. The project workers at Get Connected helped him to adjust to life in the UK, learn English, and make friends with other young people in a similar situation. Isa is now studying Access to Medicine and hopes to become a doctor, “to help other people as I have been helped”.
In a situation of prolonged conflict like that of Sudan, thousands of ordinary people find themselves separated from friends and family, far from their homes and in extraordinary situations. While the vast majority of Sudanese refugees were supported by countries like Uganda, we are proud to have helped a small number to build new lives in the UK. As people around the world stand up in support of the Sudanese people – including celebrities like George Clooney, who was recently arrested at a protest against the Sudanese government – it’s important to remember that sometimes, people affected by a conflict can be closer to home, and need your support here as much as ever. If you’d like to send a message of welcome to refugees in the UK, you can do so on our Welcome Wall.