UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the steps taken by the Ugandan government to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in government refugee programmes.
Uganda’s Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, initiated the probe after reports received by UNHCR and the World Food Programme alleged corruption and grave misconduct by officials involved in refugee assistance.
The allegations include faking documents on delivery of food assistance as well as demanding refugees pay bribes to access various services that should be free of cost.
“UNHCR takes all allegations of corruption, fraud and misconduct very seriously. Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those involved in refugee response causes great harm to the people we care for and erodes public confidence and donor trust,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “It is also a disservice to the model policies of Uganda, a country hosting more than a million refugees.”
Uganda operates an open border policy and allows refugees to enjoy similar rights to those enjoyed by its own citizens, provides access to social services and allocates land for shelter and agriculture.
In Uganda, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) leads the overall refugee response in partnership with UNHCR. The OPM and UNHCR coordinate their response with other UN agencies as well as local and international NGOs.
In order to enhance effective oversight, as well as restore public trust and donor confidence, UNHCR is supporting the government to take immediate steps to address the situation.
The government of Uganda has the responsibility to register all refugees arriving in the country. To assist in this process, UNHCR is urgently making available its globally tried and tested tools and systems to re-enrol and verify the refugee population. This will strengthen the integrity of the data underpinning the refugee operation.
Together with the government, UNHCR is also reviewing and strengthening procedures and monitoring across all refugee operations to curtail opportunities for corruption and exploitation of refugees living in Uganda and reinforce measures to ensure that vulnerable refugees, particularly women and girls, are well protected.
“UNHCR’s priority is to protect refugees and to ensure that the resources provided by governments and donors are responsibly managed, with full accountability,” added UNHCR’s Tapsoba.
“We wish to underline that corrupt acts of individuals should not be attributed to the integrity of all - who are providing a valuable service to humanity.”
UNHCR commends the Government and people of Uganda, who have offered remarkable hospitality and generosity in sharing their land and resources for decades. Over a million refugees entered Uganda in the last year and a half. Uganda currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somali and other countries.
Published on UNHCR on February 8, 2018
By Jonathan Clayton
Renewing a strong appeal to regional leaders to make peace, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has praised the “open border” policy of Uganda which is currently receiving up to 500 refugees a day.
Grandi who is currently on an official visit to the East African country, now providing sanctuary to a total of some 1.4 million refugees, upheld Uganda’s treatment of those fleeing wars and persecution as a model for the rest of the world.
“I want to thank the Ugandan government, local government and its people… despite recent influxes Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” Grandi told journalists after touring this refugee settlement.
Imvepi and neighbouring Rhino Camp, both located in Arua district, now provide some 245,000 mainly South Sudanese refugees with a temporary home.
“Almost 500 people a day come to Uganda…. All are allowed to come and receive protection, to mix freely, to work, to access basic services, the borders are open; its refugee policies are among the most progressive in the world,” he said.
Most of the refugees have fled the conflict in South Sudan north of Uganda, but a steady and growing number are also fleeing increasing insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo on its western border. Uganda also hosts around 50,000 refugees from Burundi.
Uganda now has the largest refugee population in Africa, more than half of whom are children. A quarter of all the people now living in Arua district are refugees while in neighbouring Yumbe district half of the entire population is made up of refugees. This puts added strain on already stretched local resources.
Grandi highlighted that refugees in Uganda often received parcels of land to grow food, were allowed to work and access education, health and justice services, but he warned the generosity of host communities who are also facing development challenges could not be taken for granted.
“We should not overly test the patience of people… We have to make sure local communities also benefit from the refugee presence,” he said.
He explained UNHCR and the Ugandan government had adopted a comprehensive strategy which supported grass roots’ initiatives aimed at fostering harmonious relationships between nationals and refugees.
Under this policy facilities, such as health clinics and water wells, set up to support the refugee presence are available to local communities. Hosting refugees can be a “win-win” for local communities and refugees, Grandi explained after touring a new well which will provide water to everyone living in the immediate vicinity.
Later this week, UNHCR will be launching an appeal for fresh funding to support this “whole of society” approach, also known as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, with increased infrastructure investment.
Grandi met with several refugees many of whom told him they would go home if there was peace and security, but at the moment that was not the case. “We are confused, there is no peace there. We will go home if there is peace,” Sarah Utua, 24, told him who walked six weeks to Uganda with elderly parents and two children to flee fighting near her home.
“These people all want to go home… I would once again appeal to the leadership in South Sudan ‘Please make peace’,” Grandi said.
The High Commissioner was moved by the story of a man his own age who told him he had been a refugee in Uganda four times in his life.
“I want to go back and make sure my bones end their days there. This is the fourth time I have been a refugee. Uganda has been good to me but I want to go back,” Lasuba Yousto, 60, said.
Grandi also met with Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda to whom he reiterated UNHCR’s thanks for his country’s approach to the refugee situation and pledged to maintain and improve cooperation with the authorities in all areas.
Published on UNHCR on January 31, 2018
By Catherine Garcia
This time last year, the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in Uganda didn't exist; today, it's home to more than 270,000 people who fled war and famine in South Sudan.
What was once just brush is now crisscrossed with roads and dotted with buildings. Bidi Bidi opened in August 2016, and by the end of the year, 260,000 people had already made their way there. It is now the world's largest refugee camp, the U.N. says, larger than the Dadaab camp in Kenya that has welcomed Somali refugees for more than two decades.
At least 50,000 people have died in the conflict in South Sudan since it began in 2013, and more than 800,000 refugees have fled to Uganda; on Tuesday alone, 3,000 refugees crossed the border, NPR reports. The U.N. says this is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world, and humanitarian needs have reached "unprecedented levels."