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MPs demand Labor Ministry takes action on foreign employees

By Bida Elly David

 

Lawmakers at the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) are urging the Ministry of Labor to take action against foreigners who are working in South Sudan without proper work permits.

The lawmakers are concerned about reports of illegal entry by foreigners who are taking away job opportunities from nationals during the recruitment process.

MPs want the Ministry of Labor to ensure job security for locals by cracking down on illegal foreign workers.

Felix Edward, a lawmaker representing Western Equatoria State at the R-TNLA, stated that Juba International Airport has become a centre of malpractice where aliens escape immigration documentation.

“Most companies and international organizations in South Sudan employ a majority of foreigners compared to locals, and those foreigners work here without permits,” he alleged.

Mr. Felix emphasized that there have been no reports from the Labor Ministry regarding any measures taken to combat the illegal entry and employment of foreigners without a permit.

“There is no labor officer following those people; the foreigners see to it that paying $50 for the migration is very simple, although they don’t have work permits,” he stated.

The MP highlighted that the illegal entry of these foreigners is one of the reasons behind the high rate of unemployment of most youth across the country.

“Now the country is losing money, and the foreigners flow it to their homes of origin for development,” he added.

Another MP, Mayen Deng Abier, representing Jonglei State under Other Political Parties (OPP), expressed worries as foreigners dominate all sectors of the country’s economy.

He slammed the Ministry of Labor for claiming to be implementing the employment policy of 80% of South Sudanese in the private sector and the NGO world.

“Foreigners in South Sudan are in reality given 80% more employment than the nationals,” he claimed.

According to Mayen, mostly positions of human resources (HR) are supposed to be handled by South Sudanese, but that is not happening.

The lawmaker also pointed out serious salary discrimination within NGOs and companies, saying most South Sudanese are being cheated.

“You find a South Sudanese doing the same job in the same position; a national is paid $200, and a foreigner is given more than $2,000” he alleged without immediately citing evidence.

Mayen stated that foreigners in South Sudan have become so powerful in the job market.

Responding to the MPs’ submissions during the Monday assembly sitting, the minister of labor, James Hoth Mai, who was present, acknowledged and accepted the fact that most foreigners get illegal employment without permits.

Mr. Hoth stated that the labor ministry sent a task force to correct such malpractices but ended up being harassed by the security personnel, particularly those assigned to NGOs and companies.

“We have inspectors in the ministry of labor sent out to screen all the foreigners working in this country with work permits, but they are beaten by the security of this country,” he admitted.

“They are even refused entry, whether in hotels or companies, by the police.”

The Minister also blamed the migration department for failing to handle the illegal entry of aliens at the border and points of entry.

“The migration is one of our main entities; now people work here without work permits, but the migration doesn’t come to us; these foreigners just pay $50 and are allowed to go,” he stated.

He further testified having a problem with a foreigner who was given a ten-year work permit by the migration but later protected by the security.

“It was reported to us, and then the same problem occurred: the foreigner was informed by our security that if you stay here you will be arrested, then they left them to go. When we went to the airport, we found that they were left to go,” Hoth cited.

Nevertheless, the deputy minister underlined that they have serious problems with the country’s law enforcement agencies which is being misused.

On the issue of salary discrimination, Mr. Mai said his ministry, in collaboration with other government institutions, is working towards resolving it hopefully this year.

Recently, UAP Insurance Company fired a number of South Sudanese employees on claims that they had violated the company’s employment regulations, yet the national staff said they were fighting against discrimination at work.

The incident triggered public concern until the company was tentatively closed for some time. But it was reopened by higher government officials’ directives, including Juba City Council authorities, with the grievance of the national staff being addressed.

 

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