Uganda has adopted a relatively progressive approach towards refugees, and does not restrict movement away from designated settlements. The 2006 Refugee Act outlines the rights and responsibilities of refugees in Uganda, and guarantees freedom of movement. The 2010 Refugee Regulations reinforce this freedom. The policy of the Government of Uganda, overseen by the Refugees Department of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), allows refugees to self-settle in the place of their choosing in urban areas, provided they have means to support themselves. In urban areas, assistance is provided only on a case by case basis to protection, and other cases with diverse vulnerabilities. This assistance is on a one time basis and not open-ended. Those that are completely unable to cope on their own do have a choice to relocate to the settlements where assistance is available on an on-going basis. Freedom of movement and the right to work creates a very enabling policy environment towards refugee’s self-reliance. However, given the high unemployment rates in Uganda generally, majority of refugees make their livelihoods in the informal sector where they have to compete and share the space with the urban poor. Formal employment though guaranteed in the law for refugees is very limited.
In December 2017, UNHCR, InterAid Uganda and OPM conducted a Participatory Assessment which applied the Age Gender and Diversity (AGD) techniques with the overall goal of ensuring equality and enjoyment of rights by all persons of concern, identifying their capacities as rights holders while ensuring that the duty bearers, IAU, UNHCR, OPM and other actors optimize beneficiary satisfaction and cause positive change.
The exercise reinforced the notions of rights, community based and participatory approaches - all of which aim at moving from a needs-based strategy to one that is focused on rights, community involvement and empowerment for community initiated and sustained protection where persons of concern are at the centre of decision making.
Partner multi-functional teams through focus group discussions, semi structured discussions and in – depth interviews met with key informants, women, men, girls and boys, of different nationalities, age groups and backgrounds were engaged during the exercise to enhance their protection at individual, family and community levels.
The objectives are to; ascertain the impact of the 2016 interventions and establish the most up-to-date emerging issues, to identify protection risks in the urban, to identify and prioritize programme activities, to also Identify the available capacities in refugee communities on which to build on to address the protection risks, develop a response plan based on the key findings for the 2018 Urban Refugee Programme.
Data collection was undertaken for a period of 03 days, a total of 612 respondents (320 Females, 292 Males) of which 44 focus group discussions with asylum seekers and refugees, host communities and service providers were held at 16 urban locations and neighbourhoods.
The findings further highlighted the dire need for livelihood interventions as a major protection concern, as well as the need for increased protection interventions, strategic and consistent health support and improvement in community participation in urban refugee programmes. Participants also emphasized the need for a feasible urban refugee programme that meets the needs of refugees and asylum seekers for safe and dignified living in urban areas.