“We continue to pay”: Catholic Official in South Sudan on Work Permit Exemption Directive

Fr. Jim Greene, Chairperson of Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan in his office in Juba. Credit: Kerbino Kuel Deng, ACI Africa

The Presidential directive exempting foreign missionaries from paying for work permits in South Sudan is yet to be implemented, the Chairperson of the Religious Superiors Association of South Sudan (RSASS) has told ACI Africa.

On May 26, South Sudan’s Minister of Presidential Affairs, Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin, announced that President Salva Kiir had directed the immigration department to exempt all the missionaries working in South Sudan from paying for work permits.

Dr. Marial said the directive the President Salva Kiir had issued was to “facilitate the good work missionaries are doing in various parts of the country, sponsoring students, building schools, and hospitals, among others.”

In an interview with ACI Africa Monday, September 11, Fr. Jim Greene said in reference to work permits in South Sudan, “We continue to pay.”

“We are told the various ministries have not been informed officially,” Fr. Greene added. 


RSASS Chairperson who doubles as the Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) further said, “To our simple minds, if the president of the country has spoken, then that should be enough.”

Asked about the payments in question, he said, “In the past, we were paying about US$200 for a two-year resident permit; now we have to pay US$840 per person for the same permit and that is an increase of four times.”

“We really do need help so that this very expensive cost is removed and that we are allowed to do our work,” the Executive Director of SSS, an initiative of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) and the Union of Superiors General (USG) that was established in response to a request from the members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC), told ACI Africa.

The member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) went on to recall the reaction to the work permit exemption directive, saying, “We were delighted to get the recognition from the president of the Republic that missionaries and Church workers are making invaluable contributions to the society and to the Church.”

“When the president said we are exempted from all these migration charges, we were delighted that the government of South Sudan is recognizing the very positive contribution of missionaries to this country,” he said during the September 11 interview with ACI Africa. 

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Fr. Greene further said, “Please as quickly as possible, we would ask whoever is responsible for this to ensure that the president’s words and wishes are implemented.”

“We are people who have no professional salaries; who are relying on donors very often from our own countries and Congregations and local income from Parishes and communities here,” the Irish-born Catholic Priest said, 

He continued, “At a very basic and financial level, our Congregations don’t have that great amount of money.”

“The people who are suffering as a result of this are the poor. We have had to reduce what we can give to them so that we can pay our resident permits and we think this is wrong,” Fr. Greene lamented, adding, “Some Congregations have told me that they will review their membership here since they don’t have money to pay.”

Kerbino Kuel Deng is a South Sudanese journalist who is passionate about Church communication. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.