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IOM Barge Convoy Assists Stranded Returnees in South Sudan

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, October 8, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- An IOM barge convoy carrying 947 returnees who had been stranded in Renk, South Sudan since 2011 departed on 4 October. The barges will reach the capital, Juba, in approximately 15 days, where the passengers will be provided with onward transportation overland to their final destinations.

The border town of Renk in South Sudan's Upper Nile State has become a bottleneck for returns from Sudan, as it has been the only accessible crossing point between the two countries. Thousands of returnees live in Renk's four transit sites, with most unable to travel further and facing challenges in terms of access to livelihoods, shelter and basic services.

In order to give a more precise overview of the needs and intentions of returnees in Renk, a biometric registration was conducted by IOM in July and August. The registration gathered information on intention to return, place of origin, demographics, skills and education. Findings show that 37% of those registered – some 4,400 people –are waiting for an opportunity to receive transport assistance in order to reach their final destinations. Movements organized by aid agencies remain one of the only options for safe movement to their final destinations.

With the departure of this latest barge convoy, the total number of returnees in the Renk transit sites is estimated to be 11,000, of whom about 6,600 are awaiting longer term solutions.

The barge movements form part of IOM's larger Onward Transport Assistance (OTA) programme, which allows returnees to reach their final destinations safely by facilitating movements via road, river and air.

Prior to departure, IOM medical staff screen all barge passengers for fitness to travel, administer vaccinations and escort the barges throughout the duration of the journey. Essential services are also provided throughout the journey and on arrival, in partnership with other humanitarian agencies. Humanitarian partners also provide returnees with essential food and other assistance both on departure and when they arrive at way stations throughout the country.

Since the beginning of the year, IOM has provided nearly 6,000 returnees with transportation assistance to reach their final destinations in South Sudan.