UNHCR: More Southern Sudanese head back home from Khartoum.

Southern Sudanese are continuing to return to their ancestral homes from the north ahead of this Sunday's landmark referendum, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Southern Sudanese returning home

Southern Sudanese returning home

Since mid December 2010, UNHCR says the number of returnees has more than doubled and now stands at 120,000 with an average of 2,000 returnees per day.

Melissa Fleming from UNHCR says many of the returnees have lived in the north for years and have left for fear of the unknown and the opportunity to start afresh in their native south.

However there are growing concerns over southerners who will not be able to return home.

“Following the referendum will believe it will be essential that the status of those southern Sudanese who would prefer to remain in the North is established. We are concerned about the specter of a significant number of southerners in the North having uncertain citizen status, and this potentially could leave them stateless if it is not resolved. UNHCR is actively supporting negotiations with officials to address this issue. If unresolved it could result in an even larger exodus towards the south. There are an estimated 1.5 -2 million southerners who live in the North.”

Up to 4 million Southern Sudanese are expected to vote in Sunday’s referendum to decide whether the region will break from the north and become Africa’s newest country.

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