The spread of the new coronavirus-COVID-19, has caused panic across the World. With the number of confirmed cases on the rise in Uganda, the coronavirus has affected several facets of immigration and movement of persons.
Ministry of Internal Affairs Closures Over COVID-19
The Cabinet of the Republic of Uganda at its sitting of 23rd March, 2020 at the State House Entebbe, in line with implementation of the Directives by H.E the President on management of the Corona Virus Pandemic, resolved that all Public Services offered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs that involve direct contact with clients be suspended for 30 days effective Tuesday 24th March 2020.
The suspension of services offered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in particular the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control has had a large impact on foreign residents and their families. Many Foreign residents/nationals have been trapped or forced to stay in Uganda while their immigration status is either illegal or expired as a result of lockdown of countries across the world and the ban or restriction of international travel.
The suspension of services offered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs which among others include the issuance and personalization of Visas, Work permits, Citizenship, resident permits and Passes. has resulted into failure of foreign residents to renew their immigration status leading to potentially illegal stay in Uganda.
This has led many foreign residents and their families to avoid pursuing certain benefits that they are legally permitted to use.
Immigration Enforcement Under the COVID-19-Remedial Measures
On 3rd April, 2020, the Directorate of Citizenship and immigration Control at the Ministry of Internal Affairs released a statement waiving all penalties and fines accruing from illegal stay from the 18th of March 2020 to the 17th of May, 2020.
The Ministry further permitted all foreign residents and visitors with expired immigration facilities to freely access services in the country without the threat of being arrested and advised that all immigration services would resume when the COVID-19 Pandemic situation returns to normalcy.
The legal implication of this is that indeed foreign nationals who have been in Uganda can access all services and remedies available under the law without restriction or threats of penalties.
We urge all foreign residents and visitors to remain calm, informed and not panic to take decisions that will have drastic legal consequences.
TASLAF Advocates remains committed to answering questions regarding legal implications during this difficult period.