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
This report contains in-depth information on seven gender equality promising practices that are part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR’s) response to the Syria crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Over the last six years, UNHCR and partners have implemented numerous catalytic initiatives that seek to address specific gender-related protection needs and risks of diverse Syrian women, men, boys and girls, as well as drawing upon their existing capacities. It is now important to document these initiatives to ensure that our efforts, as well as lessons learned, will continue to be built upon in the interest of pursuing gender equality as an integral element of humanitarian programming.
This report aims to provide information and inspiration to UNHCR colleagues, partners and other international and national organizations working together with refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Published on ReliefWeb on December 18, 2017
🔎 Refugees; EU relocation scheme
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged EU Member States to promptly relocate all asylum-seekers eligible under the EU’s emergency relocation scheme and for it to continue beyond the two years originally planned.
“Although the relocation scheme has only partially met what was originally foreseen to be achieved, with 29,144 asylum-seekers relocated so far, it has proven to be of vital importance. It has helped ease the humanitarian situation in Greece, relieved some pressure from Italy, and improved the lives of many seeking protection. We hope this important gesture of solidarity can continue beyond the 26 September deadline,” said Pascale Moreau, Director of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau.
“Until the Dublin reform is adopted and a more permanent model put in place, the need for such responsibility-sharing mechanisms remains acute,” she said. “UNHCR commends the efforts already undertaken by both the European Commission and States. However, solidarity must continue and expand. States should continue to pledge as long as there are eligible candidates,” said Moreau.
Under current conditions, only asylum-seekers of nationalities with an average recognition rate of 75 per cent or higher at the EU level are considered eligible for relocation. UNHCR has previously called for a review of this criteria and for the threshold to be lowered. In a continuation of the scheme, this would allow for more people likely to be in need of international protection to be included.
Swift relocation, including fast registration and transfer of candidates, is particularly crucial for unaccompanied and separated children, who sometimes still are in poor living and security conditions in Greece and Italy.
In September 2015, EU Member States agreed to a two-year plan to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers in total, including 106,000 from Greece and Italy, to other European countries to ease the pressure on frontline States.
Up to 22 September 2017, 47,905 places were formally pledged by States, with 20,066 asylum-seekers relocated from Greece and 9,078 from Italy. UNHCR will continue providing support for relocation from Greece and Italy.
UNHCR reiterates its call for a robust asylum system that ensures access to territory and efficient asylum procedures and which is capable of properly allocating responsibility for asylum-seekers among EU Member States, also in exceptional circumstances.
Published on UNHCR on September 26, 2017
Almost 500,000 Syrians have returned to their homes this year, the UN says, describing this as a "notable trend".
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says more than 440,000 internally displaced Syrians and about 31,000 of those who fled abroad have now come back.
Most of them have returned to Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus with the aim of checking on their properties and finding out about family members.
But the UNHCR warns the conditions for a safe return "are not yet in place".
Speaking on Friday, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said his agency was now seeing a "notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria" in 2017.
"Most of these people are returning to check on their properties, to find out about the family members. This is what we know from some of the evidence that we have gathered.
"In some cases they have their own perceptions about the security, whether they are real or perceived improvements in the security situation in the areas where they are going to."
Since 2015, he said, about 260,000 refugees have already returned to Syria, primarily from Turkey.
Based on the latest figures, the UNHCR has started scaling up its operations inside Syria to better address the needs of those returning home, Mr Mahecic said.
But he warned that while there were increased hopes linked to the recent Astana and Geneva peace talks, the UNHCR "believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria".
Mr Mahecic also said that the number of those who had already come back was a "fraction" of an estimated five million refugees hosted in the region.
Last week, the UNHCR said that about 200,000 people had fled Syria in 2016.
The agency said that since the conflict began in 2011, about 5.5 million people had left the country, and another 6.3 million had been left internally displaced.
More than 300,000 Syrians have lost their lives in the war, which began with anti-government protests.
In other developments on Friday:
Published on BBC News on July 1, 2017.