KHARTOUM: In the first such transfer in about a year, 1,500 ethnic South Sudanese are to return to their ancestral homeland from Khartoum area squatter camps Saturday, the International Organization for Migration said. The group leaving for South Sudan’s Northern Bahr al-Ghazal state are among almost 20,000 who the IOM says have been “stranded” in Khartoum for more than two years. Almost every single one of them wants to go South, an IOM survey found.
Without money to travel themselves, many live in the open where cloth bags wrapped around metal crates, beds and other possessions provide crude shelters, in conditions which the U.N. has called “appalling.”
South Sudanese have been classed as foreigners in Sudan since April last year, restricting their access to employment and services following the independence of South Sudan in July 2011.
The Geneva-based IOM, to which 155 countries belong, appealed to donors in November for $10.55 million to support the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments in providing “safe and dignified” transport for the 20,000 southerners in Khartoum.
However, the donors did not respond and IOM is to use its own resources to provide buses and trucks for Saturday’s convoy. The initiative is led by the governments of Sudan and South Sudan, which have agreed to provide security.
IOM is supporting the return, with help from other U.N. agencies and the Red Cross, to ensure people are moved “orderly, safely and humanely,” Malanca said.
Tensions between the two nations, and a lack of funds, had prevented an IOM-assisted repatriation since last year. In November, however, the Africa Inland Church moved about 1,600 people to South Sudan from Kosti, south of Khartoum.
That was the first major repatriation for months and followed a September summit between Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir.
Millions of Southerners fled to the north during a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan’s independence after a referendum.