IOM intensifies support to South Sudanese returnees

10 Apr 2012

IOM intensifies support to South Sudanese returnees

9 April 2012 - Over half a million South Sudanese remaining in Sudan face an uncertain future after missing the 8 April deadline to depart from that country.

Up to 120,000 are awaiting transportation, provided by South Sudan's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, to depart from Sudan's capital city Khartoum.

An additional estimated 12,000 are currently located in the Sudanese town of Kosti, where the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hopes to provide return assistance by barge as soon as conditions allow.

In February 2012, both governments concluded an agreement on voluntary returns from north to south. This document recognizes that return to South Sudan is a legitimate right and that returns must be voluntary.

Further progress was achieved in March with the endorsement of a new agreement whereby citizens of both countries, living on either side of the border, would benefit from the freedom to reside, work, own property and undertake economic activity. IOM has welcomed the agreement.

In the same month, the Government of South Sudan (GSS), through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, committed 50 million South Sudanese pounds ($16.6 million) towards the returns of its nationals located in Sudan, mainly in Khartoum.

Currently, the governments of Sudan and South Sudan continue to discuss the status of their respective nationals.

Immense logistical challenges

The IOM continues to assist GSS with its return programme through movements by barge, train, and plane for those returnees considered too vulnerable to undertake the long journey by train or barge, which can take up to three weeks.

However, there are many logistical challenges involved with organizing return movements – insecurity, lack of commercial transport, lack of river transport, damaged and under-developed road and rail network, and long wet seasons when many parts of the country become inaccessible.

As a result, returnees are often stranded in border areas and points of entry into the country, requiring government and international assistance to reach their final destinations.

While several overland routes have been considered for on-going returns, the IOM and humanitarian partners have advocated for movement through the Khartoum-Renk (South Sudan) corridor to avoid passage through conflict areas.

There are an estimated 10,000 stranded returnees in Renk in urgent need of assistance to reach their final areas of destination.

Once the rainy season begins, Renk will become almost completely isolated, as cities and towns further south become inaccessible by road.

The IOM has stepped up loading of a barge convoy for over 2,000 returnees, which is due to leave Renk for Juba within the next two weeks.