13 May 2012

South Sudanese refugees begin journey to capital

6:06 am on 13 May 2012

The first group of South Sudanese refugees stranded for months in a camp in Sudan is on its way to the south.

About 400 people - out of a total of up to 15,000 - are being taken by bus to Khartoum from where they will be flown to the South Sudanese capital Juba.

In April, the camp residents were declared a security threat by the authorities, who gave them a deadline to leave Sudan. This was later dropped. They lost rights to Sudan nationality when the south seceded last year, the BBC reports.

The airlift comes a day after United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned Sudan's bombing of bombing of South Sudan, carried out despite a UN resolution demanding an end to hostilities.

South Sudan seceded last July as part of a deal to end years of civil war. But disputes stemming from the secession, especially over oil, led to clashes last month and fears of a return to all-out war.

On Wednesday, South Sudan accused its neighbour of continued bombing raids. Khartoum said it had the right to respond to acts of aggression.

The group of South Sudanese is being taken to Khartoum from Kosti in White Nile State, about 300km south of the capital.

They will be flown out of Khartoum on Sunday morning after spending the night at a government transit centre, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) head Jill Helke told AFP.

The IOM says the 15,000 have been stuck in Kosti for anything up to a year, after boat traffic south was cut because of cross-border violence. They have been living in makeshift shelters and are dependent on aid agencies as they wait for transport.