NAIROBI (AlertNet) – A humanitarian emergency is developing on the border between Sudan and South Sudan where more than 12,000 people are stranded in makeshift shelters en route to the south, the British government says.
More than 700,000 southerners living in Sudan lost their Sudanese nationality when the south broke away to become Africa’s newest nation on July 9.
The government of Sudan announced a nine month period in which Southerners could regularise their status but no mechanism is in place for them to do so.
Carrying everything they can, families travel by road to the port of Kosti on the border, where they wait an average of 108 days for a barge to take them down the Nile to South Sudan.
Kosti transit camp was designed for up to 1,600 people but is hosting almost eight times that number.
“They have been waiting for months with little money, food and shelter, and are using their precious savings, if they had any at all, to provide for their families’ basic needs,” said Britain’s International Development Minister Stephen O’Brien in a statement after visiting Kosti.
Each week, there are up to 200 new arrivals.
At current rates, it is logistically impossible to transport the estimated 300,000 southerners who will wish to go to South Sudan before the April deadline, the statement said.
Between October 2010 and 2011, 350,000 people made the journey south.
“It is crucial that the governments of both Sudan and South Sudan work together to remove artificial deadlines and give clarity to all those who are unsure about their status,” said O’Brien.
He called for the two governments to agree on flexible arrangements for citizenship that allow free movement between their two countries.