With little more than the shirts on their backs, some 1,500 foreign nationals have been relocated to Juba or the Sudanese town of Heglig from the UN compound in Bentiu, Unity State, according to UNMISS.
Many lost their property or suffered violence on their way from nearby towns to escape the country’s ongoing conflict and seek shelter at the mission.
“These foreigners arrive in the camp with terrible stories of robberies, beatings and rapes,” said UNMISS Civil Affairs Officer Katia da Silva.
“Most of them lost everything they built during the years spent in this country and they feel defeated and betrayed,” she said. “The majority are desperate to (leave) South Sudan with no intention of coming back.”
The majority of relocated foreigners were from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda or Sudan, but the group also included nationals from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Chad, India, Philippines, America, Canada and Australia.
During the first week of violence, foreign civilians seeking shelter at UNMISS came mainly from Bentiu and Rubkona. Newcomers in January were from Mayom and areas between Bentiu and Mayom.
Merhaui, who came to Bentiu from Mayom with 41 businessmen from Eritrea on 4 January, said the town’s entire market had been destroyed when they fled on 27 December.
“We came on foot through Mankien and Wankay,” he said. “Between Mayom and Mankien we were stopped by a group of armed civilians and they took away whatever property we had left.
Fortunately, the group shared the road with a group of policemen also going from Mayom to Bentiu, who helped them “get out of trouble”, Merhaui said.
“The scariest was crossing the rivers,” he said. “We had many women in our group and three babies — one two months old, one two years old and (another) one and a half years old.”
Foreign governments have worked with UNMISS to relocate their citizens. Some, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda have chartered planes to Bentiu or Heglig to bring their people back home.