Uganda reaffirms commitment to protect Somali refugees

UNHCR Special Envoy in Uganda to discuss the situation of Somali refugees; seek support for a regional summit in 2017

 

Uganda / A group of Somali refugee women having an English language course / Nakivale Refugee Settlement, Mbarara District, South West Uganda / UNHCR / H. Coussidis / 2006  © UNHCR/HCoussidis

 

KAMPALA (UNHCR) – Uganda’s Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to Somali refugees during a meeting with UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Somali Refugee Situation, Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey. He called for a coordinated approach to the Somalia refugee situation as a regional issue.

“I believe that the situation will be resolved once conditions in Somalia are stable enough for Somali refugees to return home,”  the Prime Minister Said. He added that Uganda would continue to play its role in hosting refugees as a matter of principle.  The Prime Minister and the UNHCR Special Envoy  were accompanied by Uganda’s Commissioner for Refugees, David Apollo Kazungu, and the UNHCR Representative to Uganda, Bornwell Kantande.

The UNHCR Special Envoy praised Uganda’s unique history of hospitality towards refugees. He noted that the President of Uganda was once a refugee, and expressed the hope that Somalia’s refugees will also return to rebuild their country. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that the world does not forget the plight of Somali refugees, gave his assurances that UNHCR would continue to support the efforts of the Office of the Prime Minister to protect them.

The Commissioner for Refugees raised concerns about the proposed closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and the possibility of a mass influx into Uganda as a result, but assured the Special Envoy that Uganda would continue to keep its asylum space open. He welcomed the idea of a regional approach, and agreed that a regional summit was required to identify long-term solutions for the Somalia refugee situation.

Ambassador Affey was in Uganda from 9-12 November discuss the situation of Somali refugees with political and refugee leaders and seek support for a regional summit on the issue, to be convened in 2017.

Whilst in Kampala, the UNHCR Special Envoy attended an IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) Ministerial Meeting on Migration. He also met with the Ugandan Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hon. Hilary Onek.

At a meeting with the UN Country Team, the Special Envoy outlined the need for a regional summit on resource mobilisation to refocus attention on what he termed “a forgotten crisis”. The UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda, Rosa Malango, applauded Uganda’s unique socio-economic approach to hosting refugees. She described the challenges faced and the resources required for it to succeed. It was agreed that a regional consensus is needed on the refugee situation, and that the burden should be shared at a global level.

The UNHCR Special Envoy met with Somalia's Ambassador to Uganda, Sayid Ahmed Sheikh Dahir, as well as Somali refugee leaders. The latter shared their experiences as urban refugees in Kampala, highlighting needs for women’s empowerment, lack of access to services in the city, and the increasing number of young men from the community attempting to reach Europe via dangerous routes in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Ambassador Affey assured the refugees that he would use his role to ensure their voices are heard by UNHCR and the international community.