South Sudan Barge Convoy Carrying Stranded Returnees Arrives in Juba
GENEVA, Switzerland, July 16, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Some 978 South Sudanese returnees previously stranded in the border town of Renk arrived in the capital Juba today on an IOM-organized barge convoy.
Four barges carrying returnees and their luggage departed from Renk in South Sudan's Upper Nile State on 30th June. During the two-week journey, the convoy stopped at several locations, including Melut, Malakal, Shambe and Bor, where small numbers of passengers left the barges for alternative final destinations.
The returnees were greeted on arrival in Juba by family and friends, as well as representatives from IOM, the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission and humanitarian partners.
After disembarking and being registered at Juba port, the returnees were escorted to the Juba way station. From there, they will be transported by road to their final destinations of choice. Most of the returnees have indicated a preference to settle in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Equatoria regions.
All of the barge passengers were provided with food rations, soap and water purification sachets, and were medically screened for fitness to travel. An IOM health team as well as hygiene and protection monitors were on board the barges for the duration of the journey.
Speaking at Juba port, the Hon. Joseph Lual Acuil, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, expressed the government's appreciation for the movement, and asked for continued support to stranded returnees.
“It is our hope that all South Sudanese people who are stranded and wish to move to other locations can be assisted,” Minister Acuil said. “We cannot do this without our humanitarian partners, and without the support of the donors.”
While over 50,000 South Sudanese have returned this year, an estimated 43,500 South Sudanese are still stranded in spontaneous settlements in Khartoum and Kosti in Sudan, unable to reach the border, and living in precarious conditions with limited food, water, healthcare and sanitation.
Approximately 17,600 returnees remain in Renk. IOM recently began a biometric registration initiative across Renk's four transit sites in order to assess the needs and intentions of the returnees living there. This data will allow for future transportation and reintegration assistance to be better targeted.
IOM has provided onward transport assistance to final destinations for over 5,300 South Sudanese returnees so far in 2013.