Bashir Ismail.

Bashir Ismail spoke at the rally on May 20 and is calling on the Canadian government for more support of Sudanese people. (Eva Salinas/CBC)


Over the past month, the safety of Rasha Mahgoub's aunts and grandfather in Sudan has weighed heavy on her mind. 

"It's really frustrating because they live in an unsafe place ... You step outside, there's a very high chance you may get killed," said 20-year-old Mahgoub, who lives in Hamilton.

"We get phone calls every single day that some of our neighbours in the city we lived in got kidnapped, murdered, some of them are missing."

Mahgoub said one of her aunts had a gun pointed at her recently by a paramilitary member after leaving home to get fresh drinking water. 

Mahgoub is one of those in Hamilton's Sudanese community thinking about family members who continue to face danger back home.

Violence broke out on April 15 there after months of worsening tensions that pitted the military against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

The fighting has turned the capital Khartoum and its neighbouring city of Omdurman into a battlefield. Violence has left an estimated 700 people dead, displaced at least 334,000 people inside Sudan, and sent tens of thousands more to nearby countries, including Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Ethiopia, according to UN agencies.

A seven-day ceasefire was set to begin Monday evening[1] to allow humanitarian aid to civilians who have been cut off from most basic necessities. However, six previous ceasefires failed to hold. 

'People are suffering there'

Bashir Ismail, has been living in Canada for 23 years — first in Kingston, Ont., for two years, and the remaining 21 years in Hamilton.

Ismail, 64, said apart from his wife and kids, all of his family members are still living in Sudan.

"I have a number of aunties, uncles, cousins, [and nephews] there … some of them are caught in the war zone and they are suffering," he told CBC Hamilton.

"People are suffering there — lack of food, lack of water, lack of electric power.

"I think they die every day more than more than 100 times because they just expect it at any time [with] the airplanes just flying over them all the time and bombing, so anytime the bomb can come to them," Ismail said.

According to Ismail, even in parts of the country that "are not war zones," there is a lack of basic provisions like food stuff, water and medication. 

Communication with family difficult

Ismail says he tries to speak with his relatives in Sudan daily, but that is not always possible. He said most times there's no internet connection in Sudan, or his relatives's phones are without battery power with no electricity to charge devices.

"This puts me in [a state of worry]. It's very worrisome when they don't reply to your message. Sometimes I think they're [dead], until they reply to my messages," he said.

"So, this is a very worrisome situation."

Ismail is imploring the government of Canada "to try and save these people by means of sending humanitarian aid … and use diplomacy for opening the pathways for relief to go to those who need it."

He also wants the government and the rest of the international community to join forces to stop the war and "give priority for refugees from these war zones to come to have a safe harbour here."

Rally held in Hamilton

Mahgoub is also hoping at least one of her aunts, who is already out of Sudan, might be eligible for a temporary resident permit[2] but she has found the application process complex. The family is still trying to get through it but she's not sure if her aunt is eligible, she said.

The federal government says it has temporary measures in place[3] for Sudanese nationals, including one that allows people to apply for a fee-exempt temporary residence document to travel to Canada if:

  • They have a family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident who left Sudan on or after April 15
  • They're outside of Sudan.
  • They left Sudan on or after April 15, 2023.

"We're processing complete temporary and permanent residence applications from those living in Sudan on a priority basis," reads a web page for the fee-exempt document[4].

In a statement to CBC Hamilton, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said "eligible foreign national family members may be issued a fee-exempt temporary resident permit to facilitate their travel to Canada" but "travel must be completed before July 15.

"Once they have arrived in Canada, they'll be able to apply for a fee-exempt open work permit or study permit, and permanent residence under the family class, all free of charge."

A person holding a flag.
Organizers at the rally said about 50 people attended. They hope it helped raise awareness about violence in Sudan. (Submitted by Rasha Mahgoub)

On May 20, Ismail and Mahgoub were among those at a rally in front of Hamilton City Hall, as part of a call to action for the government to do more and to spread awareness to the broader Hamilton and Canadian community about what is happening in Sudan.

Mahgoub estimated there were more than 50 people in attendance and said demonstrators repeated chants like "stop bombing Sudan" while others waved signs that said "pray for Sudan."

She added a representative from the mayor's office attended, which demonstrators appreciated.

"I hope I am able to set an example to the younger generation to speak more," Mahgoub said.


  1. ^ set to begin Monday evening (www.cbc.ca)
  2. ^ temporary resident permit (www.canada.ca)
  3. ^ temporary measures in place (www.canada.ca)
  4. ^ fee-exempt document (www.canada.ca)

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