UNHCR issues a non-return advisory for South Sudan

Briefing Notes, 14 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday, UNHCR released a non-return advisory for South Sudanese fleeing the current conflict, which has so far uprooted some 870,000 people.

The conflict since mid-December 2013 has displaced 738,000 people within South Sudan and 130,400 people who have fled to neighbouring countries, primarily Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. Nearly 60 percent of the internally displaced people have sought refuge in or around UN bases in South Sudan.

The conflict began on 15 December with an exchange of fire in the capital, Juba, between presidential guards and soldiers loyal to the former vice president, Riek Machar. The confrontation later grew into widespread violence across South Sudan, where the political and security situation remains fluid despite the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement on 23 January 2014.

UNHCR welcomes the decision of most Governments in the region to recognize persons who fled South Sudan as refugees on a prima facie basis, as well as their generous response and cooperation with UNHCR and other humanitarian actors. It encourages other countries to do the same and to facilitate humanitarian access and delivery.

Considering the continued violence, UNHCR's guidelines note that people fleeing South Sudan are likely to meet the criteria for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention, or the 1969 OAU Convention. The OAU, the Organization of African Union, is the continental body renamed the African Union.

UNHCR therefore recommends that States refrain from returning nationals or residents of South Sudan to the country, unless cases involve people who may have committed serious human right violations.

UNHCR's advisory against forced returns to South Sudan remains in effect until security, rule of law and the human rights conditions improve enough to allow for safe and dignified returns.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi: Kitty McKinsey (Regional) on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
  • In Geneva: Daniel MacIsaac on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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South Sudan Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Donate now and help to provide emergency aid to tens of thousands of people fleeing South Sudan to escape violence.

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Return to Swat Valley

Thousands of displaced Pakistanis board buses and trucks to return home, but many remain in camps for fear of being displaced again.

Thousands of families displaced by violence in north-west Pakistan's Swat Valley and surrounding areas are returning home under a government-sponsored repatriation programme. Most cited positive reports about the security situation in their home areas as well as the unbearable heat in the camps as key factors behind their decision to return. At the same time, many people are not yet ready to go back home. They worry about their safety and the lack of access to basic services and food back in Swat. Others, whose homes were destroyed during the conflict, are worried about finding accommodation. UNHCR continues to monitor people's willingness to return home while advocating for returns to take place in safety and dignity. The UN refugee agency will provide support for the transport of vulnerable people wishing to return, and continue to distribute relief items to the displaced while assessing the emergency shelter needs of returnees. More than 2 million people have been displaced since early May in north-west Pakistan. Some 260,000 found shelter in camps, but the vast majority have been staying with host families or in rented homes or school buildings.

Return to Swat Valley

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Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

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