EDITORIAL: South Sudan must protect asylum seekers
Under the 1951 refugee convention signed by South Sudan in 2018, the country shall not “impose penalties on refugees who entered illegally in search of asylum if they present themselves without delay” which is commonly interpreted to mean that their unlawful entry and presence ought not to be prosecuted at all.
JUBA – South Sudan government authorities said this week that they are preparing to take measures of deportation against 13 Ethiopian and Eritrean nationals they said entered the world’s youngest country without proper documentation.
The immigrants who are now being held at a police custody in Juba crossed into the country from neighboring Sudan via Renk County of Upper Nile State and Rubkona of Unity State, according to the head of nationality, passports and immigration department of the ministry of interior Gen. Atem Marol Biar.
Ethiopian and Eritrean community leaders have also told Sudans Post that their community members are still awaiting deportation despite informing the authorities that they fled war and conflicts back home and may be subjected to prosecution deported.
South Sudan has constitutional obligation to protect political refugees and asylum seekers.
This obligation is provided for under sections two and three of South Sudan Passports and Immigration Act, 2011 which mentions that the government “may grant a personal exemption” to protect “political refugees and asylum seekers; and …… other persons on the grounds of courtesy, reciprocity or for other special reasons.”
Here, people who entered the country without necessary documentations are not exception.
This document defines a refugee as a person who “As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
The convention provides in article 31 that state signatories to the convention shall not “impose penalties on refugees who entered illegally in search of asylum if they present themselves without delay” which is commonly interpreted to mean that their unlawful entry and presence ought not to be prosecuted at all.
Under this provision, South Sudan should reconsider its decision to deport the immigrants. Eritrea and Ethiopia are hosting a number of South Sudanese refugees who have also entered those countries without proper documentation.
Our citizens fled our country under conditions similar to those taking place in Eritrea and in Ethiopia and therefore we should also expect to receive immigrant from those countries who are being forced to flee due to the civil war in Ethiopia as well as the repressive regime in Eritrea.
South Sudan must therefore reconsider the decision and grant these immigrants seeking protection the refugee status because there is highly likely that back home, they will be subjected to prosecution from the regimes there.
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