Govt warns ‘fraudsters’ charging Ugandans visa fees

Govt warns ‘fraudsters’ charging Ugandans visa fees

An official from the Immigration Department at the Ministry of Interior has warned officers still charging Ugandans entering the country visa fees that they (officers) will be prosecuted for violating the law. 

Ugandan citizens residing within the capital, Juba, raised concerns to the media that some officials whom they described as ‘‘normally dressed in police uniform’’ still charge them.

This comes amid reports that some immigration officials have been blocking Ugandans from entering South Sudan claiming that no official document had reached the border to effect the changes.

No visa requirement

According to the Head of Immigration in Gumbo-Sherikat, Captain Akot Gai, all the requirements about the visa waiver were readily put in place.

Akot said that no more visa was required again from Ugandans as far as the government orders were concerned.

The Director-General of Immigration Lt. General Atem Marol Biar said that he was in Turkey and that the agreement between the two countries was passed in his absence.

Sam Emolojong, an electrician within Juba, told The City Review that everything was in place except for a few South Sudanese authorities who were still requesting immigration documents. Emojong although he was found with a visa, they still asked for money to support their documents.

“Everything is okay at the border because there is a signpost which reads that there is no more visa. But here, some people are disturbing us, even a few weeks ago some Ugandans wanted to beat them,” Emolojong said.

Sunday Akim, an inspector of the Friendship Bus Company also confirmed that some people were arrested by the immigration officers who claimed that they had not heard anything about the removal of visa requirements. He said that they took some Ugandans and later on released them after asking for some money.

“They said that let them pay SSP10,000. They said they didn’t hear anything about the removal of any fees within immigration but we told them that this thing was already signed in the paper,” Akim complained. “This is wrong. What the government has said should be respected.”

Frank Mwebaze said he was arrested a month ago while having a valid visa but had to pay an extra SSP13,000. He said he had not heard anything about whether there were visa charges still ongoing but he revealed that his friend from immigration told him that they would still be paying for some immigration papers although the visa was removed.

Officers at the customs department revealed that they had been pleading with the immigration officers who were involved in such unlawful practices to protect the image of the country.

They said that they could not even collect custom duties on Ugandans who were running travelling companies saying that there was no access due to impermeability of the border as a result of restrictions from Uganda. 

“We have registered those who live with us within the Kampala Park here in Sherikat. Those people do not come here, they threaten those whom they found outside there. If they catch the Ugandans working for bus companies here, their names are checked and they are released,” said Jack Simon, the Head of Security, with Professional Security Unit, Sherikat.

The head of CID in Sherikat, Lt Colonel Tor Bilieu called on the government to identify such elements and handle them following the law.

The visa waiver

Uganda announced last month that it would scrap visa requirements for South Sudanese who hold valid passports. On October 1, 2021, Uganda removed its visa requirements giving South Sudanese a one-month ultimatum to reciprocate its visa waiver requirements for Ugandans. This was disclosed by Rebecca Kadaga, the Ugandan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs.

“That means South Sudanese travelling to Uganda will be free to enter Uganda as long as they carry a valid passport and meet other health conditions for travellers,” Kadaga said.

Uganda implemented its visa waiver later on, which South Sudan reciprocating on October 4, 2021, allowing Ugandans to enter South Sudan without a visa.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of South Sudan welcomes the decision of the Government of the sisterly Republic of Uganda to waive entry visa requirements for the citizens of the Republic of South Sudan with effect from 1st October 2021,” the statement read in part. 

“In the principle of reciprocity, the Government of the Republic of South Sudan today has directed the Ministry of Interior through its Directorate of Nationality, Passports, and Immigration to waive visa entry requirements for Ugandan citizens holding valid passports issued by the Government of the Republic of Uganda with effect from Monday, October 4th, 2021.”

South Sudan joined East African Community in April 2016 as the newest member state of the East African community.

In July 2021 Kenya and South Sudan also reached an agreement on visa waiver before Uganda.