Under a United Nations-backed initiative, South Sudanese people living in Sudan are being registered by the Government of Sudan and issued identity cards that give them the right to work and access to basic services.
The programme began on 1 February after an agreement was concluded in December between the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), Sudan’s Commissioner for Refugees and the Directorate General of Passports and Immigration. So far, 54,000 out of an estimated half a million South Sudanese living in Sudan have been registered, and 37,000 identity cards distributed.
UNHCR is supporting implementation of the plan financially and with technical capacity, ensuring that South Sudanese people staying in Sudan, who are older than five years of age, are given identity cards for the duration of their stay, allowing them the same rights and access to services as Sudanese citizens, which allows them to work, buy property, move around freely and live anywhere in the country.
Registration centres have been established in 12 sites in Khartoum state, and in March the project will be expanded to locations across the country, with White Nile state, where an estimated 66,000 South Sudanese refugees live, next on the list.
Providing a legal proof of identity and the unrestricted right to stay in the country for as long as the conflict continues represent major protection safeguards against forced return.
The majority of South Sudanese living in Sudan have been present since secession in 2011, with their numbers swollen towards the 500,000 mark by 120,000 people who fled across the border since December 2013 when South Sudan’s conflict erupted.
In response to violence that has displaced a total of 2 million people during the last 14 months, the Sudanese Government said South Sudanese people would be treated as Sudanese citizens and has maintained an open door policy since then.
Working with partners, UNHCR has assisted over 84,000 South Sudanese arriving in Sudan. Basic services and items have been provided to refugees in White Nile state, South and West Kordofan, and in Khartoum, where over 3,000 families have been assisted.
A key focus of assistance is on identifying vulnerable people and providing them with assistance such as family tracing and reunification for unaccompanied and separated children, livelihoods initiatives for women at risk, and material assistance to elderly and disabled South Sudanese.