By Sasuk Taban

Around 11,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have left UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites (PoCs) around the country since the beginning of the year, said David Shearer, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

Addressing journalists in a press conference yesterday, David Shearer said about 6,000 IDP’s had gone back in Wau, a number had left Malakal PoCs.

“There have been around 20,000 people who have left Bentiu but, unfortunately, a number of people have come into Bentiu as well as from other places. So there are two things happening here; there is a net decrease but there are people leaving and others coming in.”

“What we are trying to do is to be more consistent so that people are leaving rather than coming in,” he said.

Shearer said in nearly all cases, there has been an increase in security that has been the drive which has allowed people to move out and back to their homes. “There is no doubt people are there for protection more than anything else. Secondly, I think it has coincided to some degree with the planting season. People want to return to their homes in order to be able to begin cultivating and planting, so that’s been a drive as well,” Shearer said.

“Let’s not play around here; PoCs are not a nice place to live in quite frankly. I have not met a person in a PoC site that does not want to go back to their homes. Everybody would like to go back.”

“While we provide the basic subsistent services in the PoCs, there is nothing like being at home and being able to live in safety in your own home,” Shearer said.

He said although it is good news that Internally Displaced People are leaving the camps, UNMISS continues to shelter some 213,000 people.

“We know that the vast majority of those people want to return home, so UNMISS and our humanitarian partners are always looking at opportunities to support their voluntary return.”

“It’s important to remember that it is primarily the responsibility of the government to protect its civilians.” Shearer added.

However, he noted that there are some areas where security is improving and people are voluntarily returning home to restart their lives.”

“We have some good examples of effective collaboration especially, in cases where UNMISS has increased its peacekeeping patrols.”

“Yesterday I was in Wau.  More active patrolling by National Security and the police in Wau has substantially improved security. I spoke to the governor and security agencies of this potential cooperation to accelerate return.  We also need to ensure that humanitarian services are boosted outside the POCs and that the IDPs themselves are ready to return home,” he added.

Shearer further said the Protection of Civilian (POC) sites were originally created because there was a need to save thousands, if not tens of thousands of lives, by providing them with sanctuary.

“It is worth restating that our mandate requires us to protect civilians; this includes, not just those living in POC sites but also the almost two million displaced people around the country and those people who are still living at home,” he said.

Shearer added that UNMISS patrols are continuing to push further into the countryside extending the peacekeeping presence to places like Yei, and hopes that this will be achieved by the end of this month (September) a consistent and ongoing presence, and in other hotspots.