Lamwo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Palabek refugee settlement in Lamwo district has hit its standard capacity of hosting 60,000 refugees.
The settlement initially opened in 2017 sits on a 50 square mile piece of land donated by host communities in Palabek Ogilli, and parts of Palabek Gem sub-counties. Although it was initially meant to accommodate 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers, its capacity was increased to 60,000 after the Office of the Prime Minister-OPM acquired more land.
Julius Kamuza, the Palabek refugee settlement commandant disclosed on Wednesday that the settlement has this month hit the 60,000 capacity of refugees it was meant to host. Kamuza says OPM has since embarked on a move to assess alternative land that can accommodate the increasing number of refugees entering into the district while fleeing from South Sudan.
He says officials from OPM and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR have so far assessed two pieces of government land in Agago and Pader districts for their suitability in establishing refugee settlements. The two which were former Internally Displaced People’s Camps-IDPs are in Acol-Pii in Pader sub county, Pader district, Arum and Lamiyo sub-counties in Agago district.
He says the assessments were conducted is an early preparation on the side of OPM to guide in future planning in case they don’t succeed in expanding the current refugee settlement in Lamwo district. “There was an assessment done for preparation in future, I can’t say Lamwo has failed to host more refugees, Lamwo is still having more land and they can give us more land to continue hosting refugees,” he said.
Agago district chairperson Leonard Opio Ojok acknowledged to Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday, that they have been involved in the assessment of the former IDPs for the possibility of establishing a refugee settlement.
He says as a district, they are waiting for the outcome of the assessment conducted, adding that they don’t have any objection to the proposed plans by the government to utilize the land.
Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek, also Lamwo County legislator in an earlier interview with URN said that the government was making arrangements to establish new refugee settlements to avoid congestion at the current settlements. He said the move was aimed at ensuring that the numbers of refugees don’t surpass the host population.
As of October 31, there were a total of 59,462 South Sudan refugees in the Palabek refugee settlement according to a report released by the Office of the Prime Minister-OPM. 49,810 (84 percent) of the total are women and children. Uganda is currently home to some 943,991 South Sudan refugees as of the October 31 report by UNHCR.