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Uganda could change refugee policy over inadequate support: Minister

Minister Hilary Onek. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The government is suggesting changes in the refugee policy due to dwindling funds from donors.

According to the policy, it allows the opening of Uganda’s door to all asylum seekers irrespective of their nationality or ethnic affiliation, and grants refugees relative freedom of movement and the right to seek employment. It also entails giving a piece of land to each refugee family for their own exclusive use.

Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees while speaking on Tuesday at the launch of Uganda’s road map towards the 2023 Global refugee forum which will take place in Geneva in December, said that Uganda may scale down its commitment to the refugees because of a lack of support from the international agencies.

Onek added that even the basic logistical support to the refugees has also scaled down which creates difficulties for a country in refugee management.

“Four years ago we had about 600,000 to 700,000 refugees and the money which was allotted was sufficient, but currently that amount of money which used to come has dropped to less than half and yet the numbers of the refugees have gone up from 700,000 to 1.5 million refugees,” Onek said.

Onek also said that refugee funding dwindled as a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine which saw donors divert most of the funding to the refugee response there at the expense of host countries grappling with the refugee crisis.

According to the Minister, Uganda through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR and the World Food Program-WFP needs more than 400 million US dollars annually to cater to refugee needs.

Mary Namuno who represented the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Uganda has played its role by opening its doors to the refugees, therefore it is the responsibility of the international community to provide support.

Natalie Brown, the United States Ambassador to Uganda said that her country is committed to working with Uganda as it prepares for the Global Refugees Forum.

Uganda hosts the third-largest number of refugees in the world, slightly behind Turkey and Pakistan. Most of the refugees in Uganda come from South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Cong –DRC, and Burundi.

Several countries such as Japan, Germany, France, and the United States of America among others, and donor agencies have supported Uganda’s refugee response.

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