Kampala. The Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Mr Hilary Onek, has asked refugees from stable countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan to return home.
“Some countries have become politically stable; so refugees from there should go back and settle. Some of them keep going and coming back,” he said, citing the three countries.
He made the remarks yesterday while addressing delegates at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) high-level experts and ministerial meeting on jobs, livelihoods and self-reliance for refugees, returnees and host communities at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
Mr Onek also complained that some of the refugees, instead of reciprocating the hospitality afforded by government and Ugandan hosts, had turned into enemies.
“Of late, some people have started quarreling with us and yet we looked after them, we gave them opportunities, education and good accommodation.
All of a sudden, they have become our enemies over nothing. We only ask God to deal with them because we have done nothing,” he added.
The minister did not elaborate. This, however, is the third time Mr Onek is publicly calling for re-evaluation and or return of the refugee status of nationals from some of the neighbouring countries.
He said the returning refugees would contribute to spur growth of the economy of their home countries. There are 130,000 Rwandan and 14,000 Burundians living in Uganda as refugees, according to government figures.
Ms Duniya Khan, the spokesperson of the UN refugee agency in Uganda, said return of refugees should comply with existing, binding international refugee policy.
“As far as we know, there has been no change in (Uganda) government policy in hosting and continuing to receive refugees while there is always the hope that eventually refugees can and will return voluntarily when situations stabilise. Return must be voluntary,” she noted in reply to inquiries from this newspaper.
Uganda’s policy on refugees has been applauded globally as liberal because it gives refugees rights to acquire and own land, do business, study or get jobs.
Mr Mahboub Maalim, the Igad executive secretary, said the three-day meeting had made declarations to amend national policies and regulations on free movement of people and trade among member countries.
“We are using Uganda as a case on how hospitable they have been so that other countries can also do the same. We want countries to become more tolerant to their nationals and others through giving them equal rights with those of citizens,” Mr Maalim said.
By Daily Monitor