Rwanda + 1 more

Uganda: rejection of Rwandan refugees

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According to a statement on 3 July from the Uganda Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), 90% of Rwandan refugees have been rejected and will soon be asked to leave the country. This follows an influx of between 1,300-1,500 refugees from Rwanda into Uganda in April and May 2005, most of whom were confined to living in the Nakivale settlement in Western Uganda without a decent place to stay, or food to eat. The Ugandan government alleges that by confining refugees to this one site, it would prevent double registration.

The Refugee Eligibility Committee (REC) of Uganda went to Nakivale settlement and interviewed close to 1,000 Rwandans. Unconfirmed reports indicated that the OPM is preparing to interview Rwandan refugees in Kampala early this month. It also appears likely that the government will reject most Rwandans in the coming months.

"What hope is there for those rejected and those yet to come into the country? Will the rejected ones be allowed to appeal?" asked Ms Juliet Nandwulu, Urban Programme Coordinator, JRS Uganda.

Rwandans in Nakivale are living in very poor conditions, without a decent place to stay, or food to eat. The Ugandan government alleges that by confining refugees to this one site, it would prevent double registration. It is also claimed that the government feared that this new influx would be a hindrance to the already ongoing repatriation of Rwandans refugees in Uganda.

Interaid, a local NGO which processes asylum claims for UNHCR, confirmed that they had not received any new Rwandan asylum seekers. They said that they were awaiting the government's response on what to do with those whose registration was already underway. However, the OPM claimed that all new Rwandan asylum seekers will be registered in the normal way: though the police, Interaid, and finally to OPM office. Their asylum applications will then be determined by the REC, a process that usually takes rather long.

JRS has been referring all unregistered Rwandans to Nakivale settlement for refugee status determination (RSD). Although under financial pressure, the JRS team has found it difficult to deny them basic assistance in Kampala because the majority are hungry and sleeping outside as they await this transfer to the camp. JRS offered them emergency food and had discussions with OPM and UNHCR on how best the situation can be handled.

Meanwhile, the government has also permitted most of the Somali asylum seekers to relocate to the camp. This has been welcomed by members of the Somali community. But those of them who have not yet been registered will not be allowed to go to the camp. They still go to the JRS Kampala for assistance with their registration and for emergency assistance. Recently, the number of Somali seeking assistance from JRS has dropped.

JRS Uganda