An IOM-organized barge convoy carrying 856 South Sudanese returnees docked in the capital Juba yesterday, marking the end of a 17-day voyage from the northern border town of Renk.
Renk, in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, is close to the international border with Sudan, and in recent years has become a bottleneck for returns. Thousands of returnees have been able cross the border into Renk, but due to poor road infrastructure, lack of funds and other constraints they are often unable to travel further.
Based on the results of a biometric registration exercise conducted in Renk in the middle of this year, IOM estimates that approximately 3,000 returnees are currently stranded in Renk and in need of assistance to reach their final destinations in South Sudan.
In response to these needs, IOM’s Onward Transportation Assistance (OTA) programme helps South Sudanese returnees to reach their final destinations in the country by river, road and air. Over 6,000 individuals have received OTA support from IOM so far in 2013.
The returnees who arrived yesterday in Juba were met by family and friends, as well as representatives from IOM, the South Sudan Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare and the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.
Prior to departure from Renk, all of the barge passengers were provided with food rations, soap and water purification sachets, and were medically screened for fitness to travel. An IOM health team, together with hygiene and protection monitors, was aboard the barges for the duration of the journey.
The majority of those arriving yesterday indicated Juba as their final destination. Returnees wanting to travel to other parts of the country were escorted to the Juba way station, where they are being provided with food, medical care and other assistance while they await onward transport by road. Roughly 100 passengers disembarked the barge at various ports during the journey.
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