Sudan has been added to a list of countries accused by the USA of failing to crack down on human trafficking – a move that places legal restrictions on Sudan for the 2018 fiscal year, and could further isolate the Khartoum from Washington.
The White House said on Saturday it had ordered that Sudan, Iran, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and South Sudan be added to the list, Reuters reports.
Under a 2000 law called the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the USA does not provide non-humanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance to any country that fails to comply with minimum standards for eliminating trafficking and is not making efforts to do so.
At a forum on illegal immigration in Khartoum on Wednesday, informed delegates confirmed that Sudan has become one of the largest receiving and exporting countries for illegal migrants, saying that this results in the spread of new crimes such as human trafficking and smuggling.
The White House said it also was increasing restrictions on North Korea, Eritrea, Russia and Syria, which already were on the list, by constraining them from engaging in educational or cultural exchange programs with the United States.
In addition, President Donald Trump’s administration instructed the US executive director of the International Monetary Fund and US executive directors at other multilateral development banks to vote against extending loans or other funds to North Korea, Russia and Iran for fiscal year 2018, which begins on Sunday.
The White House said in a notice that Iran, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan and Sudan had been added to the list of countries subject to these restrictions for the new fiscal year.
The move came six days after Trump included Venezuela and Iran in a list of eight countries targeted for travel restrictions to the United States. On September 22, Sudan was removed from that list by presidential decree.
The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the lifting of the travel ban, considering the decision “an important positive development in the bilateral relations between the Sudan and the USA, and “a natural result” of “a close cooperation between the two countries in international and regional questions of mutual interest”.
However Sudan experts downplayed it. Omar Ismael, the policy coordinator at the Enough project, said that the removal of the travel ban against Sudanese nationals is related to the internal policy of President Donald Trump, who election promises to voters included a limit on immigration to the USA, and to vet visa applications.
The US government will decide on 12 October if it will definitely cancel the economic sanctions it imposed on Khartoum in the 1990s.
The USA imposed the sanctions in November 1997 after Sudan was accused of being a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The order blocked all Sudanese government assets in the USA and barred all trade transactions involving certain persons in Sudan.
At the end of 2016, the administration of former President Barak Obama began working on the criteria for partially lifting the sanctions for a period of six months (though Sudan remains branded a sponsor of terrorism), after which it would decide on a permanent lifting.
The five criteria under assessment include the ceasing of offensive military activities and providing more access to humanitarian organisations in Sudan, and it does not include the improvement of the human rights situation; a benchmark which dozens of US Congressmen, human rights watchdogs, and activists find lacking.
On 12 July, Washington postponed the decision for another three months. A press statement issued by the US State Department that day explained that “The President’s EO (Executive Order) extends the review period for an additional three months and provides for the revocation of those sanctions if the Government of Sudan sustains the positive actions that gave rise to EO 13761, including maintaining a cessation of hostilities in conflict areas in Sudan; improving humanitarian access throughout Sudan; and maintaining its cooperation with the United States on addressing regional conflicts and the threat of terrorism.”
The statement said that Washington will revoke the sanctions if the Sudanese government is assessed, by the new date of 12 October, to have sustained progress in these areas at the end of the extended review period.