Christmas airlift for "vulnerable" S. Sudanese: IOM

Report
from Agence France-Presse
Published on 24 Dec 2012

12/24/2012 14:34 GMT

KHARTOUM, Dec 24, 2012 (AFP) - An airlift from Khartoum of sick, elderly and other "extremely vulnerable" South Sudanese, suspended after a November plane crash, re-started on Christmas Eve Monday, the International Organisation for Migration said.

"We are resuming the flights," and 101 passengers took off from the Sudanese capital in two trips Monday to Aweil in the South's Northern Bahr El Ghazal state, said Filiz Demir, an IOM official.

The flights will continue until Thursday moving around 300 people to Aweil and Wau, she said, providing Christian Southerners with a well-timed seasonal gift.

The vulnerable group are among roughly 40,000 Southerners encamped around the Sudanese capital awaiting transport to the South, which became independent in July last year.

Community workers say those in the camps have lost their regular jobs and sold their homes.

IOM suspended the airlift in mid-November when its only chartered plane crashed on landing at the Aweil airstrip. Miraculously, none of the passengers was hurt.

More than 1,000 extremely vulnerable South Sudanese had been moved in November before the accident.

South Sudan's embassy says that, at last count, there were 171,000 South Sudanese still in the Khartoum area after an April deadline for them to formalise their status or leave the country.

Sudan and South Sudan have not come up with a detailed plan for returning the South Sudanese, and disagreements have stalled implementation of key deals signed in September on security and economic issues.

Millions of Southerners fled to the north during a 22-year civil war which ended in a 2005 peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan's independence following a referendum.

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