East Africa: South Sudan Blocks Refugees From Crossing Into Uganda

Thousands of South Sudanese nationals remain stranded at Nimule border town after their government issued an order blocking air and land exits.

Troops have been deployed to block civilians fleeing the violence in Juba and other towns over the past few days. Deng Mawien, a migration officer, is quoted by Juba-based Radio Tamazuj saying that they have not received directives from higher authorities in Juba to release the so many people in Nimule waiting to cross to Ugandan side.

"Nimule is overcrowded. It is full. There is no house which is empty and there are no hotels which do not have customers. Some people are sleeping in the open, others in parking lots and others are fighting migration officers to cross," Deng said.

He added that most of the people in Nimule are those escaping the weekend violence in Juba and skirmishes, which broke out in Torit, Eastern Equatoria on Sunday and Monday.

Deng Ajiing, a native of Abyei, is also quoted saying that his family is stranded in Nimule since Friday, without enough resources to meet and sustain their lives.

"We came on Friday afternoon at about 3pm. We were supposed to cross but we were delayed until they came and told us sorry, the border is closed and when we asked who closed it, they said they have received directives from above."

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) confirmed the closure of the border and called for safe passage for people fleeing the violence in Juba. Charlie Yaxley, the spokesman of UNHCR in Uganda said that the Uganda-South Sudan crossing has been greatly affected leading to a significant decline in refugee arrivals.

"This has led to a significant decrease in the number of new arrivals coming into Uganda over the weekend. Just 95 people crossed on Saturday, dropping to 36 on Sunday, compared with a daily average of 167 for July and 171 for June. We expect a higher level of new arrivals once the border reopens," he explained.

Eugene Owusu, the Humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan said, in a press statement, that an estimated 36,000 people were displaced at the height of the fighting and 7,000 sought shelter in various UN bases throughout Juba.

Source: The Observer

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