Washington, DC – Refugees International condemns Sudan’s decision to force thousands of southerners to leave White Nile state, and is calling on Khartoum to extend Saturday’s departure deadline immediately. The state’s governor has declared that 12,000 southerners who have spent months at a way station in Kosti waiting for transport to South Sudan must leave the state by May 5th. This call comes despite the fact that the Sudanese government’s own actions are preventing southerners from completing their journey.
“This demand is completely unrealistic,” said RI Statelessness Program Manager Sarnata Reynolds, who has just returned from Juba, South Sudan. “People of southern origin are trying to go to South Sudan. But now that Khartoum has closed its southern border, train and car traffic between the two countries is almost impossible. And the Nile River barges – a main means of transport - have been halted time and again by the Sudanese government. So what exactly are these people expected to do?”
Negotiations on a nationality agreement between Sudan and South Sudan broke off after the recent outbreak of fighting along the border. This put southerners stripped of their Sudanese nationality in legal limbo. On April 9, southerners in Sudan were formally declared foreigners en masse. Now Sudan requires that every individual obtain travel documents from the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum before boarding the barges south.
The 12,000 southerners now trapped in Kosti are among those bearing the brunt of all these obstacles. They are unable to move further south, and are receiving very little assistance.
“Because of Sudan’s intransigence, these people are not getting enough food, and they are going without shelter and basic health care,” Ms. Reynolds added. “For the White Nile governor to demand these people leave within a week when they have been pushed from their homes with nowhere to go is the height of irresponsibility.”
Refugees International is a non-profit organization that advocates for life-saving protection for displaced and stateless people worldwide and accepts no government or UN funding. For more information, visit www.refugeesinternational.org.