The United States government is willing to support Uganda to adopt a new policy on handling urban refugees in the country, an official from the US State Department has disclosed.
Ambassador David Robinson, the visiting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary to the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration said his country was pleased with Uganda's efforts to deal with refugee situation.
"I am very impressed with the efforts of the Uganda government and host communities in dealing with the refugee situation. Through our institutions and organisations, we will support Uganda to continue assisting the refugees," he said.
He made the remarks at a meeting with Government and refugee agencies to discuss a new UN policy on refugees in Kampala.
The envoy encouraged Uganda to implement the new UN policy, which offers refugees the option to stay in camps or settlements, or move to urban centres.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) developed the new policy in 2009, replacing the 1997 policy which restricted refugees to live in camps.
The UN was forced to change its policy as a result of deteriorating conditions in camps and the challenge of rapid urbanization, UNHCR's head of policy formulation, Jeff Crisp said.
"When you talk about refugees, people think about camps in rural areas. But this has changed because more than 50% of refugees all over the world live in urban centres," he said.
He explained that the new policy would focus on collaboration with the private sector, local communities and the Government to expand social services where refugees are resettled.
In Uganda, the number of urban refugees has been rising rapidly from 8,000 in the 1990s to over 43,000 presently.
Charles Bafaki, the senior resettlement officer in the office of the prime minister advised partners to ensure that the policy caters for host communities to minimise hostility over scarce resources.
"As the urban case load expands, there is need to increase facilities in the host communities. Otherwise, they may question why they should bear the pressure," he noted.
Rubaga division mayor, Joyce Sebugwawo decried the behavior of some refugees in city suburbs, describing them as a security threat.
"Some of them come with pistols and sharp objects. They are very uncooperative and do not respect hygiene of the places where they live," she said.
The new refugee policy is intended to improve reception, registration, documentation and protection of refugees.
Uganda's Refugees Act, 2006 provides for several incentives including allocation of land for cultivation to improve their livelihood.