South Sudan suspends $10,000 visa plans for aid workers
South Sudan is suspending plans to charge foreign workers up to $10,000 in visa fees, following widespread criticism from aid workers.
The government announced plans in March to increase work permits fees from $100 to as much as $10,000. This came after the UN in February declared parts of South Sudan were experiencing famine and called on the international community to step up its humanitarian efforts in the country.
Government suspends plan
Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau told a news conference over the weekend that the existing $100 rate for work permits will remain for the time being.
“The implementing agencies will continue with old rates charged,” he said, adding that parliament is expected to repeal the legislation that originally approved the fee hike earlier this year.
The plan quickly drew criticism from the international community, which regularly accuses the government of profiteering from the country’s ongoing political and environmental crises.
Most of South Sudan’s foreign workforce are employees of humanitarian groups with more expected to arrive after the UN’s declaration of famine in parts of the country.
“The Ministry of Finance acknowledges these significant issues,” Dau said. “And steps are being taken to formulate the best way forward.”
South Sudan struggles continue
South Sudan has been gripped by internal struggle since 2013 when civil war broke out between rebel groups and government forces. The prolonged conflict has prompted a lot of criticism from the international community against the country’s leaders who have made little effort to implement various peace deal in recent years.
Accusations of profiteering are nothing new either. Both the government and South Sudan’s main opposition group the SPLM-IO have been accused of using the conflict as a means to secure power, wealth and resources in the world’s youngest nation.
As many as 300,000 are estimated to have died in the conflict and millions forced from their homes. Life has only gotten more difficult for people in South Sudan over time with drought and insecurity adding deadly food shortages to the country’s growing list of problems.
Featured image: By Stein Ove Korneliussen – Salva Kiir 2, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8122659