UN hails Uganda's refugee policy as model for global refugee management
by Ronald Ssekandi
ADJUMANI, Uganda, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) — When fighting started in South Sudan on July 7, Richard Odego fled to Uganda leaving behind all his assets. All he wanted to do is to save his life and family from the raging war.
Without any border restrictions, Odego crossed into Uganda and is now at Nyumanzi Transit Center waiting to be resettled in a refugee camp.
Like thousands of refugees in Uganda, Odego will be resettled on a piece of land which he will cultivate food instead of entirely depending on relief aid.
It is this open refugee policy that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says should be used as a model of refugee management across the global.
Hilary Onek, Uganda’s minister for refugees and disaster preparedness, while on a visit with the UNHCR head Filippo Grandi here earlier this week at one of the camps hosting South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, said the policy has been remodeled.
Onek said Uganda, supported by the UN and other donor agencies, has started a project dubbed Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHoPE).
The five-year 350 million U.S. dollar project aims at empowering refugees to become self-reliant and reduce their dependence on humanitarian.
Onek said refugees have assets, skills and capabilities that can be tapped to support themselves, and later on, transferred to their countries of origin when they return home.
“We want to turn this human resource into a productive force. When they become productive and even start earning money that will reflect on our economy,” he said.
He said the refugees will engage in a number of livelihood strategies, both in agricultural and non- agricultural sectors, in bid for them to be self-reliant.
The refugees will be clustered in one area, and the rest of the land will be opened up for mechanized farming. The refugees would then share the proceeds from the farming.
As funding to humanitarian efforts dwindle, experts argue that Uganda’s approach would be one of the key alternatives to adopt in refugee management and response in the longer term.
Grandi said learning from Uganda, there are global discussions on how to integrate humanitarian emergency response with long-term development, for the benefit of not only refugees but also their host communities.
He said the ReHoPE project is viable but needs funding.
He said urged the rich countries to also give equal attention to humanitarian crises in Africa and other less developed places.
He said most of the rich countries focus on high profile crises and those near their boundaries.
Grandi said he will front Uganda’s refugee policy at the forthcoming UN meeting on refugees and migrants scheduled later this month.
At the end of last year, Uganda was the eighth-largest refugee hosting country in the world. The country hosts over 560,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to UNHCR figures.
Already in 2016, it has received an estimated 163,000 new arrivals fleeing from war and human rights violations in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and elsewhere.