South Sudanese protest Ugandan ‘ghost visas’ fees
South Sudanese nationals have accused the Ugandan immigration department of using unscrupulous means to extort them after crossing the border despite the free visa movement effected between the two countries.
They said the Ugandan authorities have introduced a new system to fleece unsuspecting foreigners immediately after the visa payment at the entry points was phased out.
The South Sudanese nationals who spoke to The City Review narrated how their stay is in the country is regulated and they are subjected to unlawful payments by the immigration officials.
Deng Teng told The City Review that he traveled to Uganda on October 2 through the Entebbe Airport and when he landed there, he was hit with the shock of his life.
“The immigration officers asked me how many days I was going to stay in Uganda, I told them I was going to be in Uganda for about two weeks. So, the officer wrote something [and] it was stamped but I didn’t pay attention to it then [he] gave me my passport and I went out,’’ he said.
Teng said he took his bags and went for the COVID-19 test and left home without realizing anything was amiss.
Teng said he wanted to renew his Ugandan MTN sim-card line and so he went to the customer care shop only to be told that there was an issue with his visa after Sim-Card was rejected several times.
Mr. Teng then asked the MTN customer care about what could be the problem with his visa.
He went on to say, “MTN guy told me that my visa had expired. We started checking carefully and we found that where the officer had stamped, [he] had written something there that my stay in Uganda was valid for one week only. I even asked myself what?”
Teng revealed that when he went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration to extend his stay in Uganda, he was asked to pay $50 for his stay to be extended.
“I was surprised and I said to the officer that but ‘here is the circular’. I even opened my phone and showed the immigration officer the circular for visa-free movement,” he revealed.
Nothing for free
According to Teng, the officer told him the extension is not for free. He revealed that he engaged her to inquire more about the policy and realized that all these were done purposefully.
The office told Teng that he was lucky to have been given one week saying some people were given only two days.
“After stamp, the immigration officers will give two days even if you tell them that you are going to be in Uganda for a month. And knowing that what you are going to do in Uganda will require you to ask for a visa then, definitely, you are going to have to get a visa,” he narrated.
He said any extension is not for free and it is even worse if one is returning to South Sudan once you stay more than seven days.
“They will ask you to pay for the extra days you spend in the country,” he revealed.
He advised fellow South Sudanese to be mindful while trying to cross to Uganda.
“So, you be mindful when they are stamping your passports, especially when they write that comment, be very keen to know how many days they are putting for you,’’ he warned.
Mr. Teng went on to stress that “this is the experience anyway. I had to pay $50 and it was painful to experience and I didn’t enjoy the free visa movement’’.
Mary Zainabu, a South Sudanese, who traveled to Arua last week also shared a similar experience about what she went through.
“I came here last week on Wednesday, October 6, through Nimule-Elegu border point they only asked for my documents then stamped it, asked how long I will stay in Uganda and I never paid anything,” she revealed.
“They gave my passport back, I left to Arua, I was really happy, but when I checked my document after I spent some two days, I got they gave me only a week in which I told them that I was going to be in Uganda for more than one month,” Ms. Zainabu narrated.
“But I am still here, so I do not know what will happen, because I am going to be here till next month,” she added.
When contacted for comment, South Sudan’s Immigration Director for Information and Public Relation Officer, Col. James Mapuor said they have not received any complaints about such happening.
“My office has not received any information or complaints about such issues but lets me get to you tomorrow, maybe I may find out what is going on,” he said.