High Commissioner's World Refugee Day Mission to Africa
As part of UNHCR's global effort to mark the annual World Refugee Day on Monday, new High Commissioner António Guterres is scheduled to leave over the weekend for a three-day mission to Uganda. Mr. Guterres, who assumed office on Wednesday, will arrive in Uganda early Monday on his first field mission, and plans to travel to various refugee locations in the north. He will see first-hand the situation of tens of thousands of mainly south Sudanese refugees who fled the north-south conflict and where more than one million Ugandans have been displaced by attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army. The area also hosts thousands of refugees from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Uganda today is at the eye of the conflict zone in Africa, with refugees coming daily from three of its five neighbouring countries - Sudan, DRC and Rwanda. At the end of March 2005, Uganda was hosting 234,084 recognized refugees. Since January 2004, some 30,400 refugees have sought asylum in Uganda.
For background, there are some 204,400 Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Since early 2004, over 18,000 refugees have arrived at a rate of over a thousand a month claiming insecurity due to LRA fighting, inter-ethnic positioning and lack of food. A programme for the repatriation of Sudanese refugees is in place but there's only limited interest among the refugee population to return at this early stage. Uganda also hosts 18,800 refugees from DRC, and over 14,000 refugees from Rwanda. Since March 2005, between 1,500 and 2000 Rwandans have entered Uganda and are staying in a refugee settlement. The Ugandan government considers them asylum seekers and will shortly assess their claims.
Mr. Guterres is scheduled to leave Uganda on Wednesday, returning to Geneva the following day.
UNHCR staff and refugees around the world will participate in a variety of events to mark World Refugee Day on June 20. The theme of this year's World Refugee Day is "Courage."