24 April 2015
On 14 April 2015, UNHCR published a new position paper on returns to South Sudan urging States to suspend forcible returns of nationals or habitual residents of South Sudan to the country in light of the continued deterioration of the security situation, the rule of law and of human rights.
Ongoing fighting between government and opposition forces in South Sudan has led to the internal displacement of some 1.5 million people, while over 500,000 individuals have crossed the borders to seek refuge in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. Food insecurity since January 2015 is affecting more than 2.5 million people in the country, an estimated 2.3 million people need shelter materials and basic household items, and systematic and widespread human rights violations have been widely reported.
The UNHCR guidelines note that in such a context, many of the persons fleeing from South Sudan are likely to meet the criteria for refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention. Furthermore, the security, rule of law and human rights situation stands in the way of a safe and dignified return for any person originating from South Sudan irrespective of whether or not the individual has been granted refugee status. UNHCR notes that this bar on forcible returns serves as a minimum standard that should remain in place until the situation in South Sudan has improved sufficiently to permit a safe and dignified return of those determined not to be in need of international protection.