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PHOTO may be subject to copyright

PHOTO may be subject to copyright

CHANGE OF GUARDS – In order to tap into the donor funding and other geopolitical interests, Museveni adopted a seemingly liberal refugee policy for Uganda. The development saw millions of refugees flocking into Uganda from civil strife stricken neighboring countries like South Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Burundi, Eritrea etc.  However, the management  of these refugees was hit by the usual regime flaws. Even some Ugandans were registered as refugees;
    September 2017
    “I’m not the only person from Acholi tribe here disguising myself as a refugee.  We are very many people who have become refugees to survive the biting hunger. The advantage is that officials cannot differentiate between Acholi from Uganda and [those from] South Sudan,” said Nekesa, referring to her ethnic group, as she carried a sack of grain away from a camp warehouse.

Reports of widespread irregularities with regard to refugees reception, registration, asylum processing, provision of humanitarian aid and other and general mismanagement of the refugees situation first came to light around mid 2016.   Bribery, corruption, inflation of refugee figures, diversion of humanitarian aid provisions, sexual exploitation, unfair granting or denial of refugee status and other allegations were made against UNHCR staff, the police, other aid organizations and Uganda government employees.
In November 2016, representatives from the UNHCR Inspector General’s Office (IGO) Geneva travelled to Uganda to look into the allegations.

Their findings were not made public.  Instead, in 2017 the government of Uganda and the UNHCR jointly announced they were looking for $8 billion to provide for 1.4 million refugees that the regime claimed to be hosting.  However, by February 2017 it had become clear that senior government officers had been colluding with staff from the UNHCR and the World Food Programme to inflate refugee figures. The officials allegedly created fake names in refugee settlements and defrauded millions of dollars in aid.  As usual, the Museveni regime moved very fast to sweep the matter under the carpet by simply suspending the
Cmmissioner for Refugees in the prime minister’s office, and three of his senior staff.

Amidst threats of withholding refugee aid by the major donor  community, an investigation by the
UNHCR’s IGO revealed that the refugee figures in Uganda had been exaggerated by at least 300,000 in order to attract more international funding.  During a coordination meeting on June 7, 2018, the Prime Minister, Dr Rugunda expressed concern that the revelations, if unexplained, would show       “weaknesses on the part of government if Ugandans could impersonate as refugees in such numbers without being recognised.”
In November 2018, the UN.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) ruled in a damning audit in November that the UNHCR in Uganda critically mismanaged donor funds in multiple cases.
Subsequently, in February 2019
key European donors froze their refugee aid to Uganda.

Uganda is a signatory to the 1951 Refugees Convention, the United Nations’ multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.  The international humanitarian aid that given to Uganda for refugees is in line with the international obligation of burden sharing.  The 1951 UNHCR Convention identifies three durable solutions for any refugee situation.  There are:
1.  Repatriation –  the voluntary return of refugees to their country of origin when the conditions that led to their flight no longer exists or has significantly improved.

2.  Local integration –  the integration of refugees into the host national community of the country of asylum when conditions of safe return to their home country is not foreseeable.  This can involve granting of citizenship by naturalisation.

3.  Third Country Resettlement – the relocation of a very small number of refugees from the country of asylum to another safer country.  This occurs where specific refugees are faced with physical, legal and to some extent social security concerns that can not be guaranteed by the host country of asylum.  In some rare cases, some countries offer resettlement to certain categories on purely humanitarian grounds.

In the case of Uganda, resetllement of refugees to third countries like the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland and other countries has been ongoing.  According to data releases by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM),  more than 6,400 refugees from Uganda have been resettled to third countries around the globe.  Its releases data shows that the number of resettled refugees grew from 5,011 to 6,496 between 2017 and 2018.  The same data indicates that the United States of America topped the list of countries accepting refugees from Uganda in 2018 with 2,512, a decline from the 2,740 refugees resettled in 2017.
Canada absorbed 1,609 refugees, up from 935 it admitted in 2017, followed by Australia in third position with 417 refugees, up from 201 admitted in 2017.
The statement says another 169 refugees were resettled in the Netherlands, a significant jump from just six admitted the previous year. Other countries that accepted to resettle refugees from Uganda include Norway (707), Sweden (845), Britain (115) and others (122).  Currently, in Uganda, its refugees from the DRC who are accorded top priority for overseas resettlement.

The criteria of identifying and selection of those refugees who qualify for resettlement to overseas countries is what is being abused by unscrupulous Ugandans.  First, opportunities for resettlement overseas is to some extent the major attraction for the refugees influx from countries like DRC, Rwanda, Somalia and Burundi.
The process involves the police, the Refugees Department and some junior UNHCR staff. Some so-called refugees from those countries come to Uganda purposely to try their luck at being resettled overseas.  In some cases, even those refugees already recognized in neighboring countries find their way into Uganda in pursuit of overseas resettlement.  This category uses a lot of money to be placed on the list of those in need of overseas resettlement.  In the same regard, some of the government officials working with refugees fix in their relatives, friends and those other Ugandan citizens who can afford to pay huge sums of money.  They are allocated the preferred nationality and coached on the narrative of the preferred cases,  In some cases, they are allotted other genuine refugees’ identity and case narrative (files) that they vehemently defend as their own before the immigration authorities of the overseas resettlement countries.  In this regard,  those genuine refugee candidates whose cases are allotted to Ugandans continue to languish or are harassed into either repatriation or relocation to neighboring countries.  In some cases, those genuine refugees with suitable resettlement cases are conditioned to take up some Ugandans as family members but only to separate upon reaching the overseas resettlement destination.

This multi-billion syndicate is very easy to unearth by an independent entity simply because not all those who venture into it benefit.  Several are only cheated and end up loosing a lot of money.  Such victims are disgruntled and ready to disclose the syndicate if their personal security is guaranteed guaranteed.


*** Note from editor. This article contains minor errors which will be fixed after the Xmas rush. MLN

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: December 30, 2019 at 06:41PM

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