Southerners in Sudan face deadline confusion (08/04/2012)

(Middle East Online) Uncertainty and confusion faced an estimated half a million ethnic South Sudanese on Sunday, the deadline for them to leave Sudan or formalise their status in the country. Southern officials sent to Sudan have been reassuring their people and telling them not to panic, a non-governmental worker said, as Sudan's Interior Minister, Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid, confirmed the deadline. The minister said police stations would be open for those wishing to register as northern residents, the official SUNA news agency reported.  But officers at two stations said they had only heard about the initiative on the news, and no Southerners were there to register. While hundreds of thousands have already returned to the South, an estimated 500,000 others remain in Sudan, waiting for clear direction on what to do. Confusion remains especially among the many Southerners who have not been able to obtain South Sudanese passports, said reverend Iskander Ali, an ethnic Southerner who preaches at All Saints Episcopal Cathedral in Khartoum. Those seeking to apply for northern residence need documents from South Sudan but many cannot afford a trip South to get their papers.  A few Southerners waited outside the South's diplomatic mission in Khartoum but a security officer said registration there had not begun. More than 11,000 Southerners have been living for months in makeshift shelters at the Kosti way-station south of Khartoum, waiting for transport home. Others have been waiting in the capital itself.