IOM is scaling up its programme to assist South Sudanese move from the north, using river barges, trains and planes to reduce the suffering of thousands of Southern Sudanese who have been stranded for many months awaiting transport assistance to the South.
On 14 November, a convoy of 12 river barges carrying a total of more than 3,000 Southern Sudanese left Kosti, a town south of Khartoum, for Juba, the capital of the Republic of South Sudan.
The returnees are among those who have been stranded at Kosti for many months in need of transport assistance to take them to their final destinations in the South. The journey from Kosti to Juba takes around 14 days.
The transport has been organized by IOM, bringing the number of people making the 1,436 kilometres river journey to more than 17,000 since the result of the January 2011 referendum on the independence of South Sudan was announced. Last month, another IOM-organized convoy left Kosti for Juba with 1,800 returnees.
Meanwhile, two IOM-supported trains from Khartoum arrived in Aweil, the capital of Northern Bahr El-Ghazal in South Sudan on 11 November, carrying some 2,700 Southern Sudanese. The trains are the first of a planned series, due to travel from Khartoum to the South before the end of the year.
The operation aims to enable a total of 12,000 Southern Sudanese who have been living in open areas in Khartoum for many months to reach the western parts of South Sudan.
The two convoys, consisting of 20 passenger carriages and 44 luggage wagons, left Khartoum on 28 October with more than 1,400 people on board, but more than 1,300 people joined the train before it crossed the border.
It is expected that some 32,000 persons will have been assisted to return to the south from the north by the end of the year, through a combination of river barges and trains organized by IOM and funded by both Common Humanitarian Fund and the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF).
As well as the trains and river barges, IOM also provides air transport assistance to the most vulnerable returnees who cannot withstand long journeys.
Once the returnees reach the South, IOM and its partners assist to their final destinations those who cannot afford the onward trip. They are provided with food, water, medical attention and shelter at the IOM transit centre in Wau and in Aweil, where an estimated 10,000 returnees are still being cared for by various humanitarian organizations, including IOM.
The Government of Sudan had given the Southern Sudanese who reside in the north a deadline of 9 months from the declaration of independence in July 2011 to leave the north or legalize their stay.