– Refugees International (RI) welcomes the decision by the governments of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan to resume talks. RI is calling on the two governments to make discussions about the respective status of each other’s citizens a priority. In a report released today entitled South Sudan Nationality: Commitment Now Avoids Conflict Later
, RI highlights the particularly vulnerable position of hundreds of thousands of southerners who have yet to be granted nationality certificates.
“Sudan has said security issues will be a priority in these talks. That has to include the security of those hundreds of thousands of southerners still in Sudan,” said Sarnata Reynolds, RI’s Program Manager for Statelessness. “The longer it takes for southerners to be recognized as South Sudanese nationals, the more vulnerable these people are to violence, exclusion, and poverty.”
In August 2011, the Sudanese government amended its nationality law to preclude “southern” Sudanese from holding dual nationality, denationalized en masse all southerners of their Sudanese citizenship, fired southern civil servants, and gave all southerners nine months to regularize their status or face deportation similar to any other unlawful foreigner.
As many as 500,000 southerners still live in Sudan. Among the most vulnerable to attack and discrimination are the 127,000 in Khartoum who have registered their intent to leave. Movement out of Sudan is almost impossible because the government has stopped all barges down the Nile for security reasons. Neither trains nor buses are viable options as they require movement through Southern Kordofan, where ongoing fighting makes passage unsafe. Travel south has been further complicated by the rainy season. RI is calling on the Sudanese government to work with the International Organization for Migration to facilitate the mass movement of this population by flight from Khartoum to Juba, South Sudan.
In Juba itself, up to 40,000 citizens currently hold nationality certificates. However, on a recent visit to the capital, RI learned of serious irregularities which could make it impossible for many others to obtain nationality certificates. The Republic of South Sudan’s Nationality Act and regulations, if implemented correctly, should result in high rates of nationality certification. Unfortunately, early indications suggest that the adjudication process in many cases has been incorrect, too rigid, or discriminatory and arbitrary. If this continues, it will increase the risk of statelessness exponentially.
Of particular concern are the numerous stories told to RI where not “looking” South Sudanese is creating barriers to successfully acquiring a nationality certificate. Even if all other requirements are met, a person’s skin color could result in the need for more documentation, regardless of whether the person’s origins are actually in question. Based on RI’s own observations and discussions with individuals and organizations, people from communities or tribes outside the Juba area are finding it more difficult to demonstrate they are “likely” South Sudanese.
“I met with some people who were so discouraged by the irregular and excessive demands being made of them that they were actually considering abandoning their pursuit of a nationality certificate,” said Ms. Reynolds. “A person’s color, faith, tribe, ethnicity, or any other attribute should have no bearing on the granting of citizenship. The irregularities we witnessed just reinforce the need for oversight by an independent government unit together with the United Nations to ensure that the process is consistent, fair, and transparent.”
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end displacement and statelessness crises worldwide and receives no government or UN funding. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org.
Dara McLeod +1 240 486 3011, firstname.lastname@example.org