April 6, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan does not wish to extend the deadline for when citizens of neighbouring South Sudan will be treated as foreigners, an official announced on Friday, saying that Juba gave Khartoum no reason to do otherwise.
- A South Sudanese woman waits to return home by a train organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Khartoum (AFP)
The Sudanese state minister for media, Sana Hamad Al-Awad, released a statement reaffirming Khartoum’s commitment to the 8 April as a deadline for South Sudanese to regularise their status as foreigners in what once their country.
There is an estimated half a million South Sudanese citizens who are still living in Sudan and who have been stripped of their citizenship after their region voted to secede and declared independence in July last year.
Last month, Sudan and South Sudan initialed an agreement granting citizens of each state in the other the “four freedoms” - freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property.
But plans to seal the deal at a summit in Juba between Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir and his South Sudanese counterpart Salva Kiir Mayardit were cancelled by Khartoum following the eruption of clashes on the north-south border between the two countries’ armies.
The Sudanese minister revealed that Khartoum is going ahead with its plans despite the fact that South Sudan’s government, she said, had previously requested that the deadline be extended for six months.
According to her statement, the government of South Sudan gave Khartoum no reason to cooperate.
She sought, however, to allay concerns of human rights groups about possible mistreatment and deportation of South Sudanese after the deadline is over, saying that her government is going to deal with them “respectfully, responsibly and according to international laws”.
In Juba, meanwhile, Salva Kiir revealed in a speech during the Easter holiday on Friday that there were efforts to extend the stay deadline of South Sudanese in Sudan in order to enable the two governments to regularise their status.