UNHCR Representative commends progress of the refugee verification exercise
Kantande underscores refugee registration as the prerogative and the inalienable duty of the Government of Uganda
KAMPALA, Uganda (UNHCR)—UNHCR Representative in Uganda, Bornwell Kantande, has praised the collaboration between registration teams from the Office of the Prime Minister and UNHCR as the rollout of the countrywide verification of refugees takes effect.
Reiterating that the countrywide verification exercise follows the directive by the Prime Minister, the UNHCR Representative said, “Let me emphasize that the registration of refugees remains the prerogative and indeed the inalienable duty of the Government of Uganda. Only refugees who are registered in the Government’s Refugee Information Management System will be verified.” Kantande added that this includes babies and new arrivals, the latter in reference to the ongoing refugee influxes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
“We are using UNHCR’s biometric tools to verify refugees who are registered in the Government’s Refugee Information Management System,” Kantande said. “These tools help to eliminate duplication or recycling, which are common phenomena in refugee situations worldwide.”
The UNHCR Representative described how in order to be eligible for verification refugees must produce Government issued attestations containing information about the family size and composition. The verification process involves authenticating the attestation, following which the refugee family proceeds directly for finger printing and iris scanning, and to have their photographs taken. Refugees who have completed these steps are then issued with proof of verification as well as a family ration card to enable them to receive food that is distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP).
Kantande noted the critical role being played by the litigation desks in the verification centers. “OPM and UNHCR staff are dealing jointly with any situation which may prevent genuine refugees from being included in this crucial process. Our priority is to ensure that no deserving refugee is denied the right to be verified,” he said. Explaining the role of litigation, the UNHCR Representative cited the example of old attestations, which OPM must validate in order for the concerned refugee or family to become eligible for verification. Litigation desks are also processing babies and young children who may not yet appear on a family’s attestation. Interviews with family members and documentation like clinical records like vaccination cards help to corroborate refugee claims during litigation.
“This week, joint OPM and UNHCR teams have begun verification of refugees in Nakivale refugee settlement with 107,000 people to be verified,” he said. “The main challenges we anticipate concern the ongoing rains which are causing refugees to trickle into the verification sites at a slower pace than expected.”
Nakivale Settlement is home to refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. It is one of the oldest and largest refugee settlements in Uganda covering an area of some 185 square kilometers. It is expected that the verification exercise in Nakivale will last eight weeks.
The verification exercise is being rolled out to refugee settlements in different parts of the country. The countrywide exercise is scheduled for completion in September 2018.
Current Government statistics put the number of refugees in Uganda at 1.4 million. There are continuing new arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Uganda also hosts large numbers of refugees from Burundi, Somalia and other countries.