News24

Southern Sudanese need to go home

2012-01-11 23:04

Khartoum - The UN is seeking a deal between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan to repatriate southerners, hundreds of thousands of whom remain in the north, the UNHCR chief said on Wednesday.

The United Nations estimates that 700 000 southerners are still in Sudan ahead of an April deadline for them either to go to the South or normalise their status with Khartoum authorities.

UN officials have said the deadline is currently impossible to meet.

"The first thing we will be trying, is to have an agreement between the government of Sudan and the government of South Sudan to have a plan for moving the people," said the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, according to a UN video of his remarks.

Guterres spoke at a Khartoum-area settlement called Mandela where southerners have been living in flimsy cloth huts waiting to go home.

The UNHCR boss said the "most vulnerable" will eventually return by plane and road.

"But that will of course require a careful organisation, security corridors, and an adequate reception and integration in the Southern side," he said.

Majority want to go

Guterres arrived in Khartoum from the South Sudanese capital Juba where he said he believed the majority of the 700 000 wanted to go South.

"It is a huge undertaking, and it needs a very close and constructive co-operation of the two governments," he said in Juba.

More than 330 000 South Sudanese have returned since October 2010 from the north, which fought a two-decade civil war with southerners until a 2005 peace deal led to South Sudan's independence last July.

The International Organisation for Migration, an intergovernmental body, was expecting to repatriate about 32 000 people, mostly on river barges and trains, by the end of 2011.

Many of those who remain in Sudan have been stuck for months in unsanitary and crowded camps such as Mandela.

Even those who reach the South often end up in similar facilities as they await more permanent resettlement.