Oulanyah tells gov’t to streamline refugee processes

The Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, has asked the government to improve the processes and systems of handling refugees in Uganda.
Oulanyah said that refugees migrate seeking better opportunities or security and therefore the government should have ready systems in place to receive them.
“We need properly set up systems in form of laws, policies and infrastructure among others to handle refugees to avoid having embarrassing situations like the mismatched records of the number of refugees in the country,” he said.  
Oulanyah was speaking at the launch of the Parliamentary Forum for Refugees and Internally Displaced People at Parliament on Wednesday, 27 March 2019.
He said that Uganda must first establish the profiles and record of refugees before handing them over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“It must be understood that the major responsibility of handling refugees is not with the Prime Minister’s office but UNHCR, which is established by an international convention to manage refugees; they are fully funded and Uganda is a member,” he added.
Oulanyah further noted that Uganda should decide who qualifies to be a refugee following an established internal mechanism before handing them over to UNHCR.
The Representative of UNHCR to Uganda, Joel Boutroue, said the new forum will go a long way to improve the situation of refugees in the country.
“Uganda is unique because the refugees are welcome here; [they are] free to travel and enjoy other national resources in the country and we believe we will work well with the forum to achieve this,” he said.
Boutroue said that UNHCR is making unique attempts at handling the number of refugees coming in.
“We are pledging our continued support to the status of refugees in the country,” he added.
Boutroue noted that refugees should not be looked at as a burden but a contribution to the development of the areas they settle in.
The Minister in charge of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Eng. Hilary Onek said that the government hopes to work with the Forum to make sure that the existing law on refugees is amended and improved.
He added that the refugee situation has been present in the country from the 1940s with about 8,000 refugees, which has now grown to about 1.2 million.
“With these growing numbers, we need to have more and better policies to manage efficiently the refugee situation in the country,” he said.