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Over 10,000 Congolese refugees enter Ntoroko district

Refugees have pitched camp at Rwamabale primary school in Ntoroko. File photo

Ntoroko, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 10,000 refugees fleeing instability in Boga town in the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC have crossed into Ntoroko district mainly via Rwamabale, Kayanja and Haibale. Boga is about 25km from Ntoroko district.

Majority of the refugees have pitched camp at Rwamabale primary school while others are in Bweramule, Rwebisengo, Karugutu, Kanara and Butungama sub counties. Misaki Kawamara, the Ntoroko Resident District Commissioner told URN that the situation is alarming with many more Congolese sneaking into the communities every day.

He says the asylum seekers take advantage of the porous borders to cross into Uganda and settle within the community, which is a health threat as the country battles the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kawamara says that they are internationally obliged to welcome asylum seekers, and appeals to development partners to support the district to monitor and register them for proper management. The district is also seeking support to test the refugees for COVID-19.

William Kasoro, the Ntoroko district LC V chairperson says that they are financially constrained to cater for the growing number of refugees. He says the numbers could be much higher with many dodging registration for fear of being transferred into refugee camps.

Kasoro says that he wrote to the Office of the Prime Minister and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR country office on the current status for help.

Both local leaders and residents are worried that the refugee crisis may worsen the spread of COVID-19 and Ebola.

Friday Mugisa, the LC III chairperson told URN that there is a need to mobilise all the asylum seekers and transfer them to designated places for proper management. He says wrong elements could take advantage of the situation to cause insecurity in the district.

Asaba Stephen Kyomya, the Bweramule sub county LC III chairperson says there over 4,000 refugees in his sub-county alone. He is also worried that if the group is not isolated, it may lead to disease outbreaks.

Ben Musoke, the Ntoroko acting District Police Commander-DPC says they have intensified security patrol in the district to ensure the displaced persons do not become a security threat.

Jean Mayaka, one of the refugees wants the Uganda government to transfer them to a camp where they can settle decently. She says they have currently taken shelter in a class without beddings and other utilities.

Isa Bambona, another refugee decries the lack of space, saying that it is exposing them to diseases. He also says that they are surviving on one meal a day.

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