South Sudan tells foreign workers to pay increased permit fees or leave
UN staff members register refugees at the Protection of Civilians site 1 of the United Nations Mission In South Sudan (UNMISS) in Juba, capital of South Sudan, Aug. 13, 2016. (Xinhua/Li Baishun)
JUBA, March 10 (Xinhua) — South Sudan on Thursday warned foreign workers to pay for the recently hiked work permit fees or leave the war-torn country.
Minister of Information Michael Makuei told journalists in Juba that foreign workers who fail to honor the March 2 work permit fees change initiated last week by the ministry of public service will be forced out of the country.
“Those who are refusing to pay their fees will definitely be illegal residents, and they will have to go. If you want to continue to earn your living in South Sudan, you pay for your resident, work permit and visa,” Makuei revealed.
The work permit fees for professionals/business class shot up from 400 U.S dollars to 10,000 dollars, blue collar jobs to 2,000 and casual laborers 1,000 U.S dollars, and this has been viewed as veiled target to clamp down on mostly humanitarian workers who have since outbreak of the December 2013, conflict endured obstruction, amid accusations by the government of lacking neutrality.
“We don’t want to be seen to be harassing (foreigners) people, but anybody who is resisting it will either give in or quit. There is no compromise,” Makuei disclosed.
The United Nations in late February, declared famine in parts of the country and this latest development is likely to impede humanitarian access to the 100,000 starving people in northern Unity region, and also the 5.5 million people in need of urgent food assistance.
Makuei also defended the fees which are part of the ministry of finance policy to widen non-oil revenue, as hyper inflation nears 800 percent due to decline in production in the northern oil fields of Unity and Upper Nile which account for 98 percent funding of fiscal budget.
“Here in South Sudan, our fees for the resident permits were the lowest in the region and we had to conform to what is happening in the region,” he said. Oil production reduced from over 350,000 barrels a day (bpd) to less than 130,000 bpd.
“These fees were already in the process and there was no way you would do it without amending the law. The minister of finance decided to include the amendment of the Taxation Act before passing of the budget,” Makuei added.
South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, following political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar. The war has killed tens of thousands, displaced more than two million from their homes.
Renewed violence in July 2016 that threatened to tear apart a fragile 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict, spilled over into once peace Equatoria region and led to massive refugee influx of 1.5 million people fleeing brutal atrocities into neighboring countries.