South Sudanese Leave Khartoum By Train; First Aid Reaches Abyei

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 2, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — An IOM-assisted 60-carriage train carrying 1,400 South Sudanese returnees left Khartoum yesterday, Thursday 1 March, on a 10-day journey to Aweil and Wau in the Republic of South Sudan.

This is the first train to leave Khartoum since the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan signed a memorandum of understanding in early February, which outlined a voluntary, safe and dignified return process.

There are more than half a million South Sudanese residing in the Republic of Sudan, who are required to leave the country by early next month or seek to regularise their residence status. The majority are expected to opt for eventual return to South Sudan, following the country’s declaration of independence in July last year.

Most of the 1,400 passengers on the train have been living in open areas across Khartoum for more than a year, waiting for a government-assisted transportation to South Sudan.

En route, 500 South Sudanese will be picked up from Kosti railway station, where they had been living in the open for the past 6 months. IOM has been working with the stranded returnees at Kosti, providing them with limited support in the form of shelter, transport and essential non-food items. The returnees will be provided with food, water and medical care during their entire journey.

In November 2011, IOM and the Government of Sudan each organised a train to South Sudan, carrying a total of 2,400 returnees.

IOM has been supporting both governments by facilitating the voluntary movement of stranded and vulnerable South Sudanese. In 2011, it helped some 23,000 South Sudanese residing in Sudan to return home by barge, train and air. The Organization also assisted 16, 500 other returnees reach their final destinations after being stranded inside South Sudan.

Once in South Sudan, the returnees will receive food, water, medical attention and shelter at the IOM transit centres in Aweil and Wau. They will also be provided with onward transportation assistance to their final destination if required.

A major challenge in the movement of the returnees is the huge amount of luggage that they are taking with them, including building materials, household items and personal effects- all needed to help them rebuild their lives in the South.

During the month of March, IOM will continue airlift operations to Wau, Aweil and Juba, for extremely vulnerable individuals. These include elderly and disabled people, pregnant women and people with serious medical conditions, who are not fit to travel on the trains.

IOM is also working with the two governments and partners on an operational plan to manage the large-scale returns and is advocating for the extension of the April 8th deadline which is rapidly approaching. It says it is important to have enough time to organise such a large scale flow, given the logistical and infrastructure challenges.

As a means of speeding up voluntary returns movement, IOM is suggesting the opening up of secure corridors between the two countries to enable spontaneous individual returns, and is calling for a documentation process to be started, to regularise the residency of those wishing to remain in the Republic of Sudan.

The current train movement has been organized in partnership with Sudan’s IDP Centre, the Commission for Voluntary and Humanitarian Works (CVHW), Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), UNHCR and UNICEF. Transportation of South Sudanese from Sudan is being funded by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Meanwhile, IOM is scaling up its community assistance to the disputed region of Abyei through the distribution of hygiene kits, awareness raising campaigns and rehabilitation of water sources.

An initial 200 hygiene kits were distributed to beneficiaries in the villages of Diffra and Goli in late February to help prevent an outbreak of water borne diseases such as diarrhoea, one of the most common health hazards in rural Sudan. The affected area North of Abyei town has not been accessible for international aid organizations since violence broke out in the region in May 2011.

The distribution was supported by an awareness raising campaign to educate people about improving their hygiene and sanitation practices. The materials cover such topics as the importance of hand washing with soap and the need to boil water meant for consumption. The IOM initiative is the first assistance to reach this part of Abyei, benefitting up to 2,000 people.

The disputed region of Abyei, claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, has repeatedly been the scene of deadly clashes. The latest outbreak of violence in May 2011 has driven more than 100,000 people from their homes, who are currently gathered in South Abyei and South Sudan.


International Office of Migration (IOM)

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