South Sudan “arrivals” in the White Nile State (Sudan). Not citizens, not IDPs, not Refugees: What are they?

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This paper discusses the living conditions of the so called “arrivals,”{1} South Sudanese refugees in Sudan, most of whom now reside in the White Nile State (58 %) and in Khartoum (23 %), and the rest of which live in different parts of Sudan. The focus of this paper, however, is on those who live in the White Nile State. It is no longer possible to apply the conventional perspectives used in refugee studies to understand the complex situation of South Sudanese “arrivals” in Sudan. It is also not possible to apply the terms usually used to describe and define refugees, IDPs, asylum seekers, the stateless, and “other people of concern,” to analyze the conditions of these “arrivals,” as they do not fall in any of these categories. Repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration are not possible solutions in the case of the South Sudanese refugees as they may be for other categories. Unlike the handling of straightforward cases of refugees, the international community does not have any laws or means to pressure or sanction either the Sudan or South Sudan governments for their treatment of the “arrivals.” This is so because there is no recognized international definition of “arrivals” and no standard international procedures to apply in such unprecedented circumstances. This could be viewed as a symptom of the worldwide shift from a humanitarian attitude towards refugees (typical of the post-WWII era) to a political and, subsequently, security-driven one due to the explosion, in the 1990s and until now, of the refugee phenomenon (Malkki 1995). Sudan and South Sudan are acting very much the same way other countries, and particularly European countries, do. European countries, in fact, have not set up generally agreed upon rules and measures to collectively deal with refugee issues up to now; they singularly adopt a political stance that guarantees the security of their societies and national borders instead.

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