Uganda Gives 7-Day Ultimatum to Refugees to Stay in Camps or go Home

The Minister of State for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in Uganda, Ms Esther Anyakun, has given a seven-day ultimatum to all Congolese refugees renting houses in Bunagana border town and other border sub-counties in Kisoro District to voluntarily relocate to Nyakabande transit refugee camp or return to their country.

“It is illegal for the asylum seekers to stay in local communities without being registered and screened by the security and the health team,” Ms Anyakun said.

She made the call on Friday while assessing the refugee situation in Kisoro after flagging off 264 Congolese refugees that were relocated from Nyakabande to refugee settlement camps in Kyaka II, Rwamwanja and Kyangwari in western region.

Although about 17,536 Congolese refugees are being accommodated at Nyakabande transit camp, hundreds of their colleagues opted to remain at Bunagana border post where they hired accommodation facilities, claiming that they wanted to keep monitoring the security situation in their country.

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Thousands of refugees last month flocked into Uganda through the border following fighting between the M23 rebels and the Congolese government soldiers.

The commissioner-in-charge of refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Douglas Asiimwe, said about 3,000 Congolese refugees have been relocated to the different refugee settlement camps after voluntarily accepting the refugee status.

The Resident District Commissioner, Mr Shafiq Sekandi, said about 6,000 Congolese refugees are renting houses while others are staying with their relatives in Bunagana and Rukundo town councils, Nyarubuye and Muramba sub-counties.

“It is illegal for the local community to host refugees in their homesteads because of health and security-related concerns. It is also illegal for the refugees to stay within a distance of less than 50Km from the borderline,” Mr Sekandi said.

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The State Minister for Youth and Children Affairs, Ms Sarah Nyarabashitsi, Mateke, who is also the district Woman MP, encouraged the refugees to voluntarily relocate to the settlement camps.

“Our survey indicates that about 60 percent of the Congolese refugees currently being accommodated at Nyakabande refugee transit camp are children of school-going age and it is our appeal that their parents voluntarily accept refugee status in Uganda so that their children can assess education services,” Ms Nyirabashisti said.

She added that protection service providers and other humanitarian organisations at Nyakabande are constrained as they accommodate thousands of Congolese refugees on a small piece of land.

Some of the refugees last week said they prefer to stay in the border communities so that they can easily attend to their gardens.

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“Hiring accommodation facilities near the Uganda-Congo border gives us an opportunity to attend to our gardens in our home country unlike being relocated to either the transit camp or settlement camps in Uganda. We request the Ugandan officials to allow us to stay here,” Mr John Semahoro, a refugee staying at Bunagana border post, said.

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