14 February 2012

South Sudan: Return Deal Deadline a 'Massive Challenge', IOM

Photo: Christian Aid/Mike Goldwater
Much of South Sudan has been transit as southerners return from Khartoum and other areas in the north to start a new life (file photo).

Khartoum — An April 8th deadline imposed on an estimated 500,000 Southern Sudanese to choose between returning home from the Republic of Sudan or staying on in the north will represent a massive logistical challenge to both governments and to the international community, according to IOM.

The Organization had hoped that an extension to the deadline beyond the current 8th April would be included in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that the two governments signed on February 12.

However, changing the deadline did not form part of the agreement.

The estimated 500,000 South Sudanese, who are still residing in the Republic of Sudan, seven months after South Sudan declared independence, will be required to leave the north before the expiry of the deadline or regularize their stay. Out of that number, about 120,000 have already been registered by UNHCR and are ready to depart.

In addition, there are more than 11,000 South Sudanese returnees currently stranded at Kosti way station in the north, waiting for transport to the South.

"It is logistically impossible to move half a million people in less than two months, in a vast country like Sudan with many infrastructural challenges. We desperately need enough time to guarantee safe and dignified return of these people" says Mohammed Abdiker, IOM's Director of Operations and Emergencies.

IOM has been supporting the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan by assisting in the voluntary return of more than 23,000 Southern Sudanese from Khartoum and other cities in the north to their homes in the South.

The Organization also chartered flights to repatriate extremely vulnerable people. In December and January, about 361 vulnerable people with their families were assisted to return to the South.

They included unaccompanied minors who were flown south to rejoin their families.

In South Sudan itself, IOM has been assisting in transporting people stranded at various points, unable to continue to their final destinations. Since South Sudan declared independence in July last year, IOM has assisted more than 120, 000 people stranded at Renk.

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