GENEVA, Switzerland, January 27, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM yesterday began a series of 12 flights to help 165 very vulnerable people stranded in Khartoum, together with 226 family members and escorts, to return home to South Sudan.
The airlift, which is scheduled to continue for a week, will include 11 charter flights and one commercial flight to Wau, Aweil and Juba, and will be completed by the end of the month. It will be funded by the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) and UNHCR.
On arrival the returnees will be met by IOM South Sudan officials and given help to travel on to their final destinations.
The returnees are part of a bigger group of South Sudanese who have been stranded at locations in and around Khartoum known as ‘departure points’ since late 2010, when the government of newly-independent South Sudan called upon its people to return home.
They include elderly and disabled people, pregnant women and people with serious medical conditions. Nine unaccompanied minors, identified by UNICEF, will also travel with the group to be reunited with their families in South Sudan.
IOM is supporting the governments of Sudan and South Sudan by facilitating the voluntary return home of South Sudanese citizens. In 2011, it helped some 23,000 South Sudanese to return by barge, train and air.
Conflict in border areas between the two countries and few commercial transport links mean that it is now difficult for people to return to South Sudan without help from the two governments or the international community.
Major IOM return routes include barge movements from the Kosti Way Station – a camp where more than 10,000 South Sudanese are still waiting for transport south. IOM has also helped to return people from Khartoum departure points by train. IOM air transport has been restricted to vulnerable people deemed unfit to take the journey by train or barge, both of which can take up to two weeks.
In December, IOM organized an airlift of 65 vulnerable people who were stranded at the Kosti Way Station. The returnees were transported from Kosti by road to Khartoum, where they boarded a flight to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
Since South Sudan declared independence in July 2010, over 350,000 South Sudanese living in the north have returned to South Sudan through spontaneously or with help from the governments and the international community.
An estimated that 700,000 South Sudanese remain in the north. The Sudanese government has earmarked April as the final date for all South Sudanese wishing to return home. People staying in the north will subsequently have to regularize their stay.
International Office of Migration (IOM)