By the end of October 2017, 2.1 million South Sudanese refugees were hosted in the region, including more than 2,000 in Central African Republic (CAR), 87, 000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 418,000 in Ethiopia, 111,000 in Kenya, 453,000 in Sudan and more than a million in Uganda.
546,000 new South Sudanese refugees crossed the border in 2017, of which 63 per cent are children and over 85 per cent are women and children.
Population movement has accelerated as the conflict has drawn on, with many seeking asylum after the outbreak of conflict in July 2016. This has created a challenging situation for host countries and humanitarian partners, who are addressing the needs of refugees who fled following the initial outbreak of conflict in 2013, as well as responding to the constant and steady flow of new arrivals into the six countries of asylum.
All countries of asylum have maintained an open border policy for persons fleeing persecution and armed conflict: prima facie refugee status is granted for new arrivals.
Uganda is pursuing a non-camp settlement policy. In line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), Kenya and Ethiopia are embarking on similarly inclusive approaches for recent arrivals, while DRC and CAR have already moved towards a system allowing refugees to access public services and local market opportunities.
Uganda received an unprecedented influx in 2016 and 2017, with a daily average of two thousand refugees. This led to the opening of nine settlements since July 2016: Bidibidi is the largest, sheltering over 285 thousand South Sudanese refugees.
Sudan hosts the second-largest number of South Sudanese refugees in the region, and has experienced a dramatic spike in the number of new arrivals since the start of 2017; over 186,000 people fled to Sudan as of 31 October 2017. This is the highest annual rate of new arrivals in Sudan since December 2013 – the start of the South Sudan conflict.
Ethiopia, already hosting a large refugee population, the majority from South Sudan, faced a new peak of arrivals in 2017 following the renewal of violence in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity State. This led to the establishment of a new camp in April 2017 in Benishangul Gumuz, outside of the Gambella region, where most of the South Sudanese refugees are hosted within the country putting strain on host community resources.
In Kenya, most refugees from South Sudan are hosted in Kakuma camp. In 2015, the Kalobeyi settlement opened promoting a new approach vis a vis refugees focusing on their integration into county-level development initiatives.
A new and larger influx to the DRC followed the outbreak of violence in Juba in July 2016. Fighting in South Sudan near to the border with DRC persists and is hampering the emergency response. Thirty five per cent of the refugees are hosted in the two refugee camps of Meri and Biringi: the rest are dispersed along the border areas living within host communities. This refugee population continues to represent a major protection concern with risk of attacks and recruitment by armed groups from South Sudan.
Very few humanitarian actors are present in the refugee-hosting areas of the DRC, due to logistical and security constraints. In addition, these areas lack almost all basic and essential services, and the host community population lives in extremely poor conditions.