Muaz Hassan, a village councillor in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., has travelled halfway around the world to help family flee violent conflict in Sudan.
Aid agencies estimate more than 400,000 people have left the country since clashes between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces began in Khartoum, the country’s capital, in mid-April.
Speaking to CBC News from the neighbouring country of Ethiopia on Friday morning, Hassan said his family — a large group including his wife, children, and extended family members — were making their way from the middle of Sudan to the Ethiopian border.
There, Hassan said, he was hoping to meet them on Saturday.
“To be honest, there is no safe place in the region here,” said Hassan, describing the various ways out of the country and what makes each route challenging. He hasn’t been able to secure the necessary visas to get his family to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and South Sudan — which became its own nation in 2011 — isn’t stable.
Hassan said meeting at the Ethiopian border is the best option.
From there, he’s hoping Canada will accelerate the already-started immigration process for his wife and kids, and that he can find accommodations and jobs for his other family members in safer places.
The number of people fleeing Sudan could double or even triple in the coming months, United Nations officials said last week, if the army and paramilitary group don’t make peace.
The violence in Khartoum has been especially vicious, with reports on Wednesday of 19 people killed and more than 100 injured in an attack on a city market.
Hassan said he’s spoke to friends in Sudan who have described the violence — one had to bury a man’s body in the street, while another had their home entered and dog killed by the paramilitary group.
“You cannot even imagine how the situation is, it’s very sad,” said Hassan.
What can Canada do?
Shams Osman, a Yellowknife resident with family in Sudan, said his mom, brothers and sisters are in the middle of the war too.
He said they’re “trapped” and waiting for a miracle to happen.
“They got no idea how they’re going to survive this one,” said Osman earlier in the week. “I think the international community needs to move here, needs to move seriously to get involved.”
Canada closed its embassy in Sudan in April, with the federal government saying diplomats would work from safe locations outside the country to help those still within it, and military troops were deployed to help in the evacuation of its citizens.
Hassan is calling on Canada not for financial support to deal with the crisis, but for an accelerated immigration process that could bring his wife and children — and others — to safety.
“There’s so many Sudanese who are in the same boat as myself, who are Canadian, who have families, who are really paralyzed to do anything,” he said.