ALL night the bombs and artillery and machine guns have been blazing around Khartoum. The apartment block next to yours, where you have been celebrating Eid, blew up.

You’ve nowhere to hide and your kids are terrified. They cling to those who have raised them in your absence, those to whom you have remitted money … they don’t cling to you as you are not familiar with your smell and touch after six years of absence. You’d just been building that trust back this holiday, this very first holiday, when the war broke out.

Just imagine. At long last after waiting forever, your passport had arrived. I was delayed in the Home Office, as is now normal. The trip you’d booked to the family wedding got lost, no refund on the flights, because the passport hadn’t arrived.

The UK Home Office website says “within six months” but that was eight months ago. No point writing, they ignore everything anyway. And the helpline is just hours of the same canned music.

And then there is it. A few weeks before the big festival. The family can be together again after all – for Eid. You’d flown fly out, using your hard-saved cash. It’s not easy. So much money to send “back home”, so many people to support, and then there is the cost of living crisis. You’ve been working every shift under the sun to get enough money to meet the eye-watering thresholds for family reunion and all the English language tests for the family to be able to join you in safety. “Back home” you could manage without heating.

But not in Scotland!

It’s been a long, hard winter. You’ve been back with long-separated family for a week now, getting ready for Eid. It’s been amazing to see your spouse, your children. Bittersweet too – so much missed in their growing up during the six years of waiting to get documents and have your claim processed.

Better not to say too much about the recent experience of hotel detention: the mould; the rats; the unpleasant warders; the utter boredom without anything to do with your time.

No right to work in the UK. Just waiting. Cold. Sometimes absolute despair and a loneliness that makes the Glasgow winter rain feel like a warm friend in comparison.

The kids are growing fast. They were left behind when you were taken by traffickers. It was just one afternoon and suddenly they came out of nowhere and took you from the streets of Khartoum, bundled you into a van and drove you off into one of the strongholds of the rebel forces.

At least, you think it was the rebel forces. As someone who fled here from the war and persecution over the border, you don’t really understand Sudanese Arabic.

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They thought you might be pregnant and so there were many arguments about what to do with you. You bumped across the desert. No water. One vast criminal gang after another, supported by different governments, and now the ultimate betrayal.

You have made it back to be with family. For the first time ever you have taken a safe and legal route, using a UK Refugee Travel Document, after your claim to have a well-founded fear of persecution was recognised. It’s the first-ever safe and legal route that has been available to you.

Of course, you tried when you were in Khartoum before – but then as now, the UK had no programme with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, to enable you to reach safety, or your family.

You look, with your remaining battery charge, to see if UNHCR has put out a statement confirming what the UK Government said about you going to UNHCR in Khartoum directly. Your heart thuds, then sinks: “UNHCR is aware of recent public statements suggesting that refugees wishing to apply for asylum in the United Kingdom should do so via the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ respective offices in their home region.

“UNHCR wishes to clarify that there is no mechanism through which refugees can approach UNHCR with the intention of seeking asylum in the UK. There is no asylum visa or ‘queue’ for the United Kingdom.” (

The UK Government said the very opposite in Parliament just the other day. Despite it all, you are wryly amused to read the barely suppressed rage in the UNHCR corrective, connecting with your own.

You’ve always known not to trust the authorities but you did think, previously, that the UK might be different. Clearly, it is just as corrupt and as bad. In fact, it seems it now merely wants to persecute those with refugee status much as they were persecuted back home. Just in different ways and if possible, in places beyond the immediate reach of the UK’s laws.

Then, today, one of your children disappeared from the street. He’d only gone out to get water and he was taken by one of the trafficking gangs. Everyone always says there are just two sides but there are so many factions, and they all have their own trafficking networks. Many paid by international intermediaries.

They’ve started targeting kids to kidnap. It’s easier to make them disappear underground than with adults. The governments don’t get involved in the dirty work but the money is there, making sure that the neighbouring countries’ soldiers, killed in the recent regional conflict, are replaced with kids from the half-way safety of the city they have fled to. One of the key traffickers has more than 2000 soldiers in a private army now.

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The big powers toying with people who fled in their utter helplessness. They just have to be picked up, driven to the desert, disappeared and then sent back over the international border. They can then be trained as child soldiers and sold on. There are now so many conflicts they are needed to fight in.

You have a refugee travel document which means you have entry clearance to the UK for your dependents, according to the letter sent on from the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for International Development to your MP.

When you read it – sent on to you by your MP when you wrote in broken desperation to get out of the city during the ceasefire – you all made your way, under gunfire to the Wadi Saeedna airfield.

But it was chaos. Absolute chaos. And although you have entry clearance, the officials acting for the Home Office refused you transit as you are not yet a British national, only in possession of a travel document. The guidance is unclear.

You watch, now condemned to stay as the white-privileging of those “with papers” begins. Yet another way in which “safe and legal” routes are revealed to be a fallacy. They came over after a while and said they could take you after all – but not your children.

The gunfire outside was so loud. You were terrified. The children were terrified. Your children ... your children ... your children ...

We both work in the Unesco Chair for Refugee Integration through languages and the arts. We both know people in this precise situation in Khartoum.

There are no safe and legal routes, and people cannot get back home. The UK has abdicated its international obligations. If people do manage to get back home, on a boat, perhaps, trying to join their family in the UK, they will be housed indefinitely on barges or in barracks that have been condemned by the inspectors as unfit for habitation.

And then, if the Home Secretary’s “dream” comes true, they will be deported, indefinitely, to Rwanda.

By refusing to assist those stuck in Khartoum, the UK Government is actively perpetuating the war, supplying innocent conscripts to both armies, to whom they have granted refugee protection in the past. It is augmenting a conflict that is destabilising a whole region which has already seen deadly conflict, in Tigray, this decade.

It is the worst of times. The Government itself made the comparison with Ukraine.

It is indeed different.

You know exactly why.

Alison Phipps and Hyab Yohannes work at the University of Glasgow