, KHARTOUM, May 21 – Gunfire broke out on Monday at a refugee camp on the Sudanese border with Eritrea during a clash between refugees and police that left one policeman wounded, witnesses said.
About 300 people had gathered outside the administration office of Shagarab camp, which is largely populated by Eritreans, to protest security conditions, a local aid worker said.
They were upset after the recent kidnapping of asylum seekers from inside the camp, according to the witness.
“A number of police surrounded them. Then I heard shooting and the people scattered. I saw one police officer injured, and a soldier tried to help him,” the aid worker added.
Another witness, an asylum seeker, said a crowd was yelling outside the camp’s administration office.
“Then I heard shooting and most of the people tried to run away,” he said. “Near the camp health centre I saw one police officer bleeding.”
The witnesses were unsure who did the shooting.
Philippa Candler, assistant representative for protection with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Sudan, told AFP the cause of the clash was unclear but it coincided with a meeting between refugees, UNHCR, and Sudan’s Commissioner for Refugees agency which manages the camp.
No refugees or UNHCR staff were injured but the UN was trying to confirm that a police officer had been hurt, she said.
Shagarab receives about 2,000 asylum-seekers monthly, largely from neighbouring Eritrea where many have fled compulsory military service.
The UN says most of the new arrivals leave the camp within two months of arrival for Khartoum, Egypt, Israel or further afield, in search of better economic opportunities.
They turn to people smugglers for help, but some end up being simply kidnapped for ransom, the UN says.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said on a visit to Shagarab in January that Eritrean refugees are being kidnapped and sometimes killed by human traffickers, and called for global action against the crimes.