Stranded South Sudanese to be Flown Home: IOM
KHARTOUM: Up to 15,000 South Sudanese who have been encamped in crowded conditions in Sudan will be flown to South Sudan, avoiding a May 20 expulsion deadline by local authorities, the IOM said on Saturday.
"We hope to start within a week," Jill Helke, who heads the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) office in Khartoum, told AFP.
The IOM estimates that 12,000-15,000 South Sudanese are in the Kosti way-station about 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Khartoum. Many have been living in makeshift shelters or barn-like buildings, waiting for months for their transport home.
The governor of the area declared the migrants a security threat and initially gave them a May 5 deadline to leave.
Sudanese officials last week extended the deadline to May 20 but the IOM, in a written statement, said it has now been assured by the government in Khartoum that the deadline "would not be enforced, given that a firm departure plan was now in place."
The South Sudanese in Kosti are among about 350,000 Southerners whom the South Sudanese embassy estimates remain in the north after an April 8 deadline for them to either formalise their status or leave Sudan.
Hundreds of thousands of others have already gone to the South, which separated last July.
IOM said that all the Southerners in Kosti are dependent on assistance from the international community for food, water, healthcare and other essential services and most do not have their own means to arrange transportation.
"The aircraft are already lined up and ready," Helke told AFP, adding that the passengers will be brought by bus from Kosti to the airport in Khartoum shortly before their departure.
"The planes will keep going twice or three times a day," she said. IOM, which is dependent on donor funding, has money for about half the flights "but we're working on trying to get the rest," she added.
Nak said Khartoum was asking for guarantees the barges would not carry military equipment on their return trips after delivering the human cargo.
Since last year the IOM has helped return more than 23,000 Southerners, mostly by river barge.
By AGENCIES, 05/05/2012