Sudanese returning from Libya arrive at Khartoum International Airport. (cc) AlAdwaa.Online | Mohamed Al-Amin | January 30, 2020
Following the accusations that the Emirati ‘Black Shield Security Services’ company recruits Sudanese to work in Yemen and Libya instead of hiring them for security posts in the UAE, as described in their contracts, many have decided to cancel their travel. They now await the retrieval of their travel documents and reimbursement of the fees they paid to a travel agency based in Khartoum.
Outside the ‘Amanda Travel and Tourism Agency’, young Sudanese men, who started their travel procedures to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are waiting. The agency is closed, and its manager and employees have switched their mobile phones off.
Mohannad Ahmed is one of the young men who lost the registration and medical tests fees he paid, after suspending his travel procedures. Ahmed decided not to travel when he heard that the UAE firm ‘Black Shield Security Services’ is sending young people to military training camps and from there on to Libya and Yemen.
“We have lost our money, passports, and other documents. We have been standing outside the travel agency for days, and no one is talking to us about our money and documents,” said Ahmed.
Abdelrahman Elzaki, who returned from the UAE, told AlAdwaa.Online about the money he paid to Amanda. “I signed the contract sent by Black Shield at the offices of the ‘Amanda Travel and Tourism Agency’ in Khartoum. The contract was registered with the Sudanese Labor Office, and everything looked good before our arrival in the Emirates. Things started to get complicated, as the agreed-upon terms were not respected. The agreement was that we work as security guards with Black Shield inside the Emirates only, and not anywhere else.
“No to deception”
Al-Kabashi Ahmed was one of the people who returned from the UAE. He is 40 years old and hails from a village in Gezira. He travelled to the UAE dreaming of making money, by working for Black Shield.
To make his dream come true, he paid SDG 80,000 (approx. USD 1,500). This money is all he and his family had. The family was relying on this trip as the ‘Amanda Travel and Tourism Agency’, through which Ahmed had signed the contract, promised him a monthly salary of AED 8,000 (approx. USD 2,100).
Ahmed describes what happened to him: “We were taken from the Sharjah Airport directly to the Zayed military city and the representative of Black Shield, who was waiting for us at the airport, took our passports and our mobile phones.”
“The Emiratis then took us to training camps without explaining the nature and place of work and why we are being trained. This was an advanced military training involving heavy weapons. This led us to think that we won’t be working as security guards,” said Ahmed.
Twenty-five-year-old Azhari Ali Youssef said that he also dealt with the ‘Amanda Travel and Tourism Agency’. He paid SDG 120,000 (approx. USD 2,300). When arriving in the UAE, Youssef said, “Emirati officers from Black Shield supervised the training. We, a group of Sudanese men, were trained in the camp for two weeks.”
The group started to protest the lack of sufficient information about the work they are supposed to do, its nature and where it is supposed to take place.
“They took our mobile phones and deprived us of communications with the outside world. After protesting, we were given back our mobiles to discover that we were victims of a big deception and that those who came before us were sent to guard vital facilities in Libya,” said Mohamed al-Jazouli, another returnee.
“We were able to communicate with the outside world for two hours only, during which we contacted our fellow-colleagues who came before us and our families and friends. That is when the campaign, which brought us back home, started,” said al-Jazouli.
On Sunday, January 26, dozens of Sudanese citizens protested in front of the UAE embassy and the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum, and held up signs, which said: “No to mercenaries”, “No to fraud” and “No to deception”. The ministry confirmed that indeed, Sudanese men are working as guards, protecting Libyan oil fields.
Ayman Mohamed is one of the Sudanese who returned from Libya. He said that after ten weeks in military training camps in the UAE, he and his group were taken to Ras Lanuf in Libya. The Mediterranean town in northern Libya hosts an important oil terminal. It is under the control of the Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, an ally of the UAE.
“We did not directly fight for the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, but the work at oil facilities in areas under his control confirmed to us that we were working for him,” said Mohamed.
On January 30, the spokesperson for the Sudanese transitional government and information minister, Faisal Mohamed Saleh told the press that representatives of concerned parties are looking into the issue.
He added that “those young men went to the UAE and there they were offered two different contracts with the company: a contract as security guards to work in the UAE and a contract as security guards in petroleum areas outside the UAE. Libya was one of the options. Some of them agreed while others opted to work in the UAE.”
However, Ayman Mohamed, said: “The biggest catastrophe was that they did not consult with us about travelling to Libya, Yemen or other countries. This is a flagrant violation of our rights, and it is almost human trafficking.”
About the fate of the Sudanese currently in Libya, the minister of information said it is difficult to communicate directly with them. “All communications are through the company and others, with the basic understanding that whoever wants to return must do so immediately, and no one should be obliged to stay under any circumstances.”
Regarding the Sudanese presence in Yemen for the UAE, Mohamed Abdo, a Yemeni journalist, said the “there are Sudanese soldiers and security guards protecting the Aden port run by the UAE, as well as those tasked with protecting the houses of UAE officers present in Yemen within the remaining Emirati forces.”
“I cannot confirm if these soldiers work for Black Shield or another firm, but I can confirm that they are Sudanese and their work is to protect the port and other petroleum facilities,” Abdou added.
An isolated case?
An employee of one of the travel and tourism agencies in Khartoum, who preferred not to be identified, said that several travel and tourism agencies, as well as other entities, work as a network to attract young people to work for UAE companies.
“Many agencies have a bad reputation, and they deceive young Sudanese, manipulate their fate and exploit their need to work amidst rising unemployment in the country,” said the employee. “This has been going on since the days of the former regime, and unfortunately these practices continue.”
Fifty Sudanese have returned from the UAE according to a report published by Anadolu dated January 28, 209 returned from Abu Dhabi according to a report published by the Al Jazeera, dated January 31, and another 80 from Libya according to an Anadolu report dated February 4.
Meanwhile, in Khartoum, young Sudanese men are still waiting in front of the ‘Amanda Travel and Tourism Agency’. Up to now, they have no idea how they are going to get back their documents and the money they paid, believing that it will be their first step towards a brighter future.