1 November 2017

Uganda: Make Uganda Safe Haven for Refugees


Recent reports of kidnap, forceful repatriation and alleged killings of Rwandan refugees by a section of our security personnel weaken our open-door policy for migrants, refugee and asylum seekers. This unacceptable practice undermines our reputation as a first-rate safe haven for refugees, and hosting nearly 1.277 million of those numbers as of June 2017. These numbers are expected to climb to 1.5 million by the close of the year, according to United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

Even more, Uganda hosts refugees from more than 13 countries, including South Sudan, the Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and the Central African Republic, all in the name of good neighbourliness' and regional stability. This geo-strategic and unique refugee policy positioning of Uganda should be upheld to promote good neighbourliness' and regional stability.

Once again, this is why this embarrassing blunder should not be allowed to stain Uganda's progressive open-door policy for migrants, refugee and asylum seekers. Indeed, no security apparatus neither any errant security personnel should be allowed to frustrate the country's renowned embrace of our brothers and sisters who flee their countries of origin and seek refuge from danger.

For so long, Uganda has uniquely stood out as a beacon of hope for those millions who seek and obtain safe haven even as other countries across the world are shutting their borders in the face of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. All these even in the face of dwindling donor support to sustain the influx asylum seekers here.

In sum, the move to arrest suspected perpetrators of this vice is a belated, but welcome move. This without a doubt will reassure the world of our country's commitment as a hospitable community that is ready to give sanctuary to people escaping from conflict or war and other forms of persecution in their countries. The arrests should also sound a ringing warning to our law enforcers not to forcefully return those with well-founded fears to the hands of those who seek to persecute them.

Our laws, especially the Refugee Act, 2006, is very clear and one of the most generous. The Act emphasises our country's unwavering liberal policy towards refugees who seek sanctuary in Uganda. The law underscores that refugees be accorded safety and return to their home country in dignity, or be resettled in a third country or integrated in the country of displacement.

This is precisely why refugees in our country should enjoy as much rights and security as our nationals, with the exception of the right to vote in our national elections. Let's uphold our progressive approach to refugee management and our country's reputation as a safe haven for refugees.


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