OpEd, Politics

The Legal and Moral Quagmire of Racial Profiling by South Sudanese Immigration Officials

By Gama Hassan Oscas

Introduction: The plight of many light-skinned South Sudanese who endure brutality and discrimination at the hands of immigration officials is a deeply concerning and morally troubling issue. The use of skin color and height as determining factors for an individual’s nationality is not only unjust but also a clear manifestation of racial profiling. This article seeks to critically examine the legality of such practices and question the legal provisions that allow immigration officials to conduct indiscriminate checks in markets, streets, and on roads, subjecting innocent individuals to unnecessary harassment.

Racial Profiling: A Violation of Human Rights: The use of skin color and height to determine an individual’s nationality is a blatant violation of human rights. It perpetuates systemic racism and discrimination, targeting a particular racial group while disregarding the rights and dignity of the targeted individuals. Racial profiling is not only morally reprehensible but also undermines the principle of equality enshrined in international human rights law.

Furthermore, racial profiling is a counterproductive law enforcement strategy that diverts resources and attention away from targeting actual security threats. Instead of focusing on intelligence-led operations to identify potential violators of immigration laws, immigration officials engage in haphazard searches based on racial characteristics, leading to a waste of valuable resources and time.

Legal Basis and Questionable Practices: The legal provisions that grant immigration officials the authority to conduct checks on foreigners without valid travel documents must be reviewed and refined to prevent abuse and discrimination. While it is essential for a country to regulate its borders and enforce immigration laws, such regulations should never violate fundamental human rights principles.

The current practices of conducting checks in markets, streets, and on roads seem to lack a rational basis and may be more reflective of bias and prejudice than legitimate law enforcement. South Sudan is a diverse nation with citizens of various skin colors and physical characteristics, and it is both irrational and unjust to assume that light-skinned individuals are more likely to be foreigners without valid travel documents.

Targeted Checks and Respect for Human Dignity: Instead of subjecting individuals to arbitrary checks based on their appearance, immigration officials should adopt more targeted and intelligence-driven approaches to enforce immigration laws effectively. Concentrating efforts on entry and exit points, such as border crossings and airports, allows for a more efficient use of resources while still maintaining border security.

The practice of multiple checkpoints along roads, even after travelers have already undergone scrutiny in previous locations, is not only an inconvenience but also a clear infringement on individual rights and freedoms. Such excessive and repeated checks without reasonable cause demonstrate a lack of respect for the human dignity of citizens and travelers alike.

International Comparisons and Lessons to Learn: South Sudan should consider learning from neighboring countries and other international examples in managing immigration and border control. For instance, Uganda’s approach, where travel documents are not routinely checked upon entry unless a person is suspected of committing a crime, demonstrates a more pragmatic and rights-based approach to immigration enforcement: By following a similar model and adopting best practices, South Sudan can strike a balance between enforcing immigration laws and upholding human rights. The focus should be on protecting the nation’s borders without subjecting its own citizens to humiliation and discrimination.

Conclusion: The discriminatory practices of South Sudanese immigration officials, including racial profiling based on skin color and height, must be unequivocally condemned. These practices not only violate fundamental human rights principles but also undermine the fabric of the nation, eroding trust between the government and its citizens.

To rectify this situation, the legal provisions that empower immigration officials to conduct indiscriminate checks must be revisited and revised. The emphasis should be on intelligence-led enforcement and targeted checks at entry and exit points rather than arbitrary and racially motivated searches in markets, streets, and on roads.

South Sudan should take a cue from neighboring countries and international best practices to strike a balance between enforcing immigration laws and safeguarding the rights and dignity of its people. Only through a commitment to equality, justice, and human rights can South Sudan build a society that truly reflects the values it aspires to uphold.”

The author of this article can be reached on Email: oscarsgama@gmail.com

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