Bilal Hashem last heard from his friend, a fellow Eritrean, on April 19 in Kassala, a city in eastern Sudan near the Eritrean border. He was fleeing Sudan’s war-torn capital, Khartoum, to a refugee camp and to access aid from the United Nations.

Then Hashem received an anxious call from his friend. “He said, ‘They grabbed me and took me off the bus.’ The line was then cut off,”  Hashem, 26, told Al Jazeera from Sudan.

“If he was in a refugee camp, then I would have heard news from him. But he’s not there.”

Hashem’s friend could be among a number of Eritreans who have reportedly disappeared on the road to Kassala, raising fears that they have either been captured by Eritrea’s authoritarian government or by human traffickers after fleeing the fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).