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IOM Steps up Transport, Aid for South Sudanese as Return Deadline Approaches

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, April 5, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM has intensified its operations in Upper Nile State - the main entry point for South Sudanese returning from Sudan - ahead of a possible April 8th deadline for assisted returns and the upcoming wet season, which will make roads in the region impassable.

The operations include pre-positioning of non-food relief items, shelter and sanitation materials, and deploying barges to move returnees south by river ahead of a possible influx.

At Renk near the border with Sudan, where an estimated 10,000 stranded South Sudanese need urgent transport assistance to reach their final destinations, IOM is currently loading a barge convoy to Juba, the South Sudan capital. The barges, which will carry 2,000 people, are expected to leave within the next ten days.

Three more barges carrying over 50 metric tonnes of relief items and equipment are being loaded at Juba port today, destined for Upper Nile State. IOM is also increasing the transport assistance it provides to other agencies to move aid.

Over half a million South Sudanese remaining in the Republic of Sudan face an uncertain future as the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan continue to discuss the status of their respective nationals residing in the two countries.

In February, the two governments concluded an agreement on voluntary returns from north to south, which recognizes that the return of individuals is legitimate and should be voluntary.

On March 13, a new agreement giving citizens of the two countries the right of residence, the right to own property and the freedom to work and to undertake economic activities in any part of the two countries, was signed, but is yet to be ratified by either country.

As South Sudan's geography and infrastructure present challenges to the development of commercial transport links, returnees are often stranded in border areas and points of entry into the country and require government or international assistance to reach their homes.

The government of South Sudan is committing the equivalent of US$ 16.6 million towards the return of South Sudanese from Sudan.

IOM will continue to supplement government efforts by providing train, road, barge and air transport to vulnerable and stranded returnees. In March it completed an airlift of over 2,000 vulnerable individuals from Khartoum to Wau, Aweil, and Juba in South Sudan.

Since August 2011, IOM has transported over 2,000 metric tonnes of supplies to Upper Nile State. Cargo, typically transported by barge along the White Nile, includes non-food relief items, shelter materials, vehicles and fuel.