By Katy Snowball
Mahamed Garad is a 28 year-old Somali living in the United Nations Protection of Civilian (PoC) site, in Juba. Mahamed was forced to leave his humanitarian career in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 2013 because he felt too unsafe to continue working there. After spending time in Rwanda, he headed to South Sudan and established himself in Bor, the capital of Jonglei State, as a retailer.
As the conflict in South Sudan spread to Bor in April 2014, Mohamed fled and sought protection at the PoC site in Juba. With the assistance of IOM through the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) and in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, Mahamed was able to apply for a South Sudan Temporary Stay Permit. The Temporary Stay Permit is offered to foreign nationals in the Protection of Civilian site, with 264 of permits issues thus far in 2015, allowing those people to regularise their stay in South Sudan and work legally.
Somali nationals were also given the chance to apply for a Somali passport, with 159 people applying. Mahamed received his permit and passport on 21 February. The permit gives Mohamed the opportunity to remain in South Sudan with legal immigration status and to work again, something he is keen to do.
“I have the knowledge and I plan to start another business.” Said Mahamed.
Mahamed is not alone. There are hundreds of other Somalis who are still in South Sudan despite the conflict. Like 64 year old Abdikadir who previously had a thriving shop in Mogadishu before leaving in September 2013 when the constant insecurity become too difficult for his business.
His hopes of restarting a similar business in Juba were dashed in 2014 when the conflict forced him to flee and seek safety at the UN PoC site in Juba. He has hopes that his Temporary Stay Permit will enable him to re-establish another successful store.
Abas came to South Sudan from Kenya, where he had sought refuge after fleeing from violence in Mogadishu. He was caught in the conflict in Bor while working as a truck driver delivering freight to the Kenya and Uganda borders. He met Laylo in the Juba UN House where they shared food rations and they were married soon afterwards. When their son Muhammed was born in the PoC, they took the opportunity provided by IOM and the Government of South Sudan and applied for passports and Temporary Stay Permits. Abas is desperate to start working again to support his young family.
“The exercise was successful because of the Governments strong support and commitment, in particular the Directorate of Nationality, Passports and Immigration and the Commission for Refugee Affairs.” Sara Basha, IOM South Sudan Program Manager stated. “Issuing a temporary stay permit to regularise and legalise migrants with irregular immigration status is not a common practice. These migrants were caught in crossfire when the crisis in South Sudan broke out in December 2013. Some chose to remain in South Sudan and start all over again.”
The negotiation and issuing process took about seven months, with over 700 people benefiting from IOM’s assistance including those received permits and new passports, and 150 who chose to return to their country of origin.
Around 550 foreign citizens remain in POC 2 in Juba. Many people have also applied for asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and are undergoing a separate process.
Katy Snowball is a Reporting Officer in IOM Juba/Bentiu, South Sudan