x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

South Sudanese passports now a grey area

Sudanese nationals in the UAE are awaiting word about plans for passports and visas.

DUBAI // Some UAE residents from South Sudan are concerned about how the nation's birth will affect their passports and visas.

As of Saturday, South Sudan's independence day, southerners have been classed as foreigners in the North according to a Nationality Bill amendment, recommended by the Council of Ministers last week but yet to be implemented.

Officials at the consulate general of the Republic of Sudan in Dubai said there was no cause for concern as all Sudanese passports would remain valid until direct orders were issued from Khartoum. This, they said, was unlikely to happen within the next six months.

"Pending new instructions from the government of Khartoum, Southern Sudanese citizens can use their passports normally to travel," said Police Col Mohammad Ali Sayed Ahamed, the passport manager at the Sudanese consulate. "It's a humanitarian issue; we cannot abruptly take away passports and deem people illegal. The process of the law is under consideration. Implementation is not expected promptly as there are many details to consider until it receives final signature from the president."

Until the law is fine-tuned, a grey area remains.

Omar Al Bashir, the president of Sudan, announced that southerners working in the oil industry and living in the north would remain exempt from the new nationality law unless otherwise instructed.

"Southerners working in the oil industry are entitled to the northern nationality because this is a very sensitive sector where most of the revenue is driven from," said Bakri Awadalkarim Mula, a media consultant at the Sudanese consulate. "The implementation of the nationality law will stipulate moves to be taken - but when and how is yet to be defined."

After the law is adopted, those residing illegally in either the North or South could face legal action.

The Dubai-based business consultant Bona Rehan, a southerner who holds a Canadian passport, said sorting out identification issues was an important part in laying the foundation of a new country.

"How will we travel, with the new or old passport? All we know is that the government said our passports will soon be invalid," Mr Rehan said. "Even President Al Bashir knows he has to help because troubles should be left behind. We are starting from zero. We need schools, hospitals, roads and a sophisticated police system."

The northern government was the first to publicly acknowledge a separate South Sudan and it will be the UAE that will house the new country's first embassy, according to the South Sudan vice president Riek Machar, who made the announcement during a recent visit to Dubai.

"One day I hope to apply for a Southern Sudan passport," Mr Rehan said. "You have to first love your birthplace in order for it to spread."

melshoush@thenational.ae

* The Sudanese Press National Council has suspended six national daily newspapers as of Saturday. The Sudan Tribune, The Democrat, The Advocate, Khartoum Monitor and Juba Post, all in English, and Ajras al Hurreya, an Arabic daily have ceased publication. The move was made because of a press law that says all newspaper publishers and editors must be northern Sudanese nationals. Publication has been suspended until the issue of nationality has been resolved.