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IOM Resumes Return of Displaced in Sudan

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it is resuming its operation to help internally displaced Sudanese return to their homes in Renk County in Upper Nile State. The Geneva-based organization says the first overland convoy will depart from a center on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, on Saturday. The operation is jointly run by the IOM, the northern and southern governments of Sudan and the U.N. Mission in Sudan. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

The International Organization for Migration says the return operation can resume now that the rainy season in Sudan is over and roads are more suitable for traveling.

The agency says all adults and children traveling on the first convoy home have been medically screened prior to departure and have received routine vaccinations. It says various U.N. partners also have provided the returnees with food rations and non-food items to help them restart their lives back home.

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya says subsequent land convoys will take internally displaced people to Southern Kordofan and Unity State. She says a total of 3,500 people are expected to be assisted home before the end of the year.

Pandya says emergency funding has allowed IOM to complete this year's operation to southern Sudan. But, she notes money remains a problem and could hold up future returns.

"We urgently require $4 million just for priority returns scheduled for the early part of 2008 and to build or re-establish an extensive network of departure centers and way stations that were either dismantled or damaged during the long rainy season," she said. "These way stations are essential for providing the necessary shelter and amenities to IDPs [internally displaced persons] on their long journey home."

In January 2005, the northern Islamic government and rebels in the Christian and animist south signed a peace agreement ending more than 20 years of civil war.

This agreement has prompted tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people to return to the homes they fled in the south years ago. Many have gone home on their own. Others have been assisted by the United Nations and other international agencies.

Since it began its repatriation operation in 2006, IOM has helped more than 60,000 people in Sudan return home by land, sea or air. However, IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya warns plans to return more than 100,000 displaced people next year are in doubt because of lack of funding.