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The Government of Southern Sudan is planning to repatriate 1.5 million southerners who fled to the country's north during the long civil war, before a crucial referendum in January 2011, where south Sudan will choose whether to secede from the north. Refugees International urges the Government of Southern Sudan to ensure that displaced southerners are repatriated on a strictly voluntary basis.
“Humanitarian objectives should remain the goal of the repatriation process. If people genuinely want to return home, that is their right. But the Government of Southern Sudan must work together with international organizations to ensure the process is voluntary, and people should not be moved until there are enough emergency resources to receive them, such as food and temporary shelter,” said the Vice President of Refugees International, Joel Charny.
The repatriation plan is entitled “Come Home to Choose,” and the Government of Southern Sudan says that it will cost around $25 million.
“Most of south Sudan is underdeveloped and extremely poor. Aid agencies are already taxed with making sure that the current number of returning displaced persons and refugees receive sufficient support to integrate into southern communities. International involvement is essential,” said Charny, who was recently in Sudan, on a mission looking specifically at the issue of displaced southerners in the Khartoum area. "People should not be moved, to be used as a political tool during the referendum," said Charny.
As documented by Refugees International (http://www.refugeesinternational.org/policy/field-report/sudan-preventing-violence-and-statelessness-referendum-approaches ), southerners living in the north are vulnerable to potential violence and loss of citizenship, in the event that the referendum results in a vote for separation. Voluntary, organized return may be one component of an overall protection strategy for this community as the referendum approaches.
For Immediate Release: August 27, 2010
Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle Menezes
+1 347 260 1393
P: 202-828-0110 x225