Thu, 07/07/2011 - 09:17
Washington, D.C. – As South Sudan prepares to become a nation on Saturday, thousands of southerners in the north feel abandoned and face increasing attacks and insecurity, Refugees International said today. There are currently 17,000 southerners crowded into nineteen assembly points in Khartoum, awaiting transportation southward. The security situation at these assembly points is deteriorating – with increasing reports of police raids and harassment by local community members. Refugees International is calling on the government of Southern Sudan to work with the humanitarian community to provide urgently needed transportation for those southerners trying to return to South Sudan.
“It is unacceptable that, once again, so many thousands are stuck in Khartoum, forced to live in such despicable conditions,” said Andrea Lari, Director of Regional Programs for Refugees International. “They are living like squatters, with no access to clean water, latrines, or other basic necessities. The governments in both the north and south are failing these people.”
Those southerners who manage to leave Khartoum face incredible hardship on their journey south. In Kosti, in northern Sudan, there are now 15,000 southerners at a way station originally designed to host just 800 people. When an RI team visited this same way station in February, the presence of 5000 people there was incredibly alarming. That there are now three times as many is cause for serious concern. Some returnees do not have access to clean drinking water, and there are fears of disease outbreaks.
In addition to this, trains transporting returnees have been attacked by armed militias in the north. Refugees International is urging the government of Sudan to provide escorts for these convoys to ensure the protection of southerners traveling to the border.
Refugees International has also received disturbing reports of attacks on groups of returnees after they have crossed into the south. Refugees International has learned that in one instance, members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) attacked one of the barges and sexually harassed some of those on board. As thousands of people continue to move across the border, the government of Southern Sudan must ensure that SPLA officers better control the behavior of their troops.
“Southerners in the north are feeling increasingly discriminated against, which is undoubtedly putting pressure on people to get to the south,” said Mr. Lari. “The inability of the governments of north and south Sudan to reach a formal agreement protecting citizenship rights is surely feeding this insecurity. Until the citizenship issue and related protection concerns are addressed, you will continue to see thousands of southerners getting caught in this bottleneck of those desperate to get to South Sudan.”
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org.
Contact: Dara McLeod +1 240 486 3011