Number of refugees entering Uganda from South Sudan and Kenya could escalate to large numbers that pose a challenge to local to manage, United Human Right Commission for Refugees, deputy resident representative Barnwell Kantande said.
“So far we get 150 to 400 refugees from South Sudan every day making a total of 64,000 refugees last year ending May. And if the Dadaab Refugee Camp in north east of Kenya that has been hosting over 600,000 refugees for the last over 20 years is closed, then we may see more Somalis come into Uganda,” he said.
Speaking to Exposed Ug during World Refugee Day June 18, at Old Kampala Secondary School Kantande said UNHCR is planning with Uganda government to handle the anticipated influx.
For South Sudan the exodus has been due to fighting causing insecurity while the Somalis it could be mainly due to uncertainty, Kantande.
Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke however has said repatriating the refugees back to Somalia “would be very tough”.
He said the best time to close the Dadaab Refugee Camp would be 2019.
Sharmarke said Mogadishu should be given ample time to prepare to receive the over 600,000 refugees who have lived in North Eastern Kenya for the last over 20 years.
“We want our refugees back,” he told the Washington Post on Wednesday.
“But you have to calibrate the way they are coming back. You can’t just throw them back with nothing.”
He said Mogadishu is still in talks with the Kenyan government over the possibility of postponing the closure of the camps by three years.
On Wednesday, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta at a meeting in Brussels Belgium said his government’s decision to close the camp was final.
Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed after the meeting reported that the UN had given Kenya an okay to close Dadaab and repatriate the Somali refugees back home.
Amina said the UN had agreed to collaborate with the Kenyan government in transporting the refugees mainly of Somali origin back to the horn of Africa nation.
Before the Brussels meeting, the decision to shut the world’s largest refugee camp had met resistance both locally and internationally.
Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga recently led a group of opposition politicians to Garissa County where the camp is located where they criticised President Uhuru Kenyatta for his decision to shut Dadaab.
The attacks, which Al Qaeda linked group Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility according the Kenya government are planned in Dadaab.
Sharmarke, however, during the interview refuted the claims.
Meanwhile Presiding over similar celebrations in Mogadishu, the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia, and head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Ambassador Francisco Madeira, appeals to governments to take the necessary action to reverse the worsening refugee crisis on the African continent.
Ambassador Madeira said avoidable and unwarranted conflicts have uprooted millions from their homes, making them refugees in foreign countries. He cited Somalia as one of the countries in Africa that has borne the brunt of negative consequences of war, which destroyed livelihoods of millions of Somali citizens forcing them to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and beyond.
“May we take this opportunity to reflect on the plight of refugees, the millions of people who have been forced out of their homes and their countries by conflicts, ideological radicalism, clan rivalries and intolerance, problematic forms of governance, violent extremism and terrorism. We must, as a continent, strive to address the root causes of these conflicts and work towards prevention, while at the same time committing ourselves to providing the necessary support for a dignified existence of the refugees in our midst,” noted Ambassador Madeira.
The SRCC stated that Al-Shabaab’s instrumentalization of religion and unwarranted violence is the main reason for the increased number of Somali refugees. He appealed to Somali parents to protect their children from Al-Shabaab’s indoctrination, ideological radicalization and recruitment, as this is the most effective way to put an end to Al-Shabaab’s reign of terror. He reiterated AMISOM’s continued commitment to work together with the Somali government to defeat Al-Shabaab and to restore the peace and stability we are all yearning for in Somalia.
He also called for more support to the millions of Somali refugees, many of whom are seeking to return to their motherland.
Held under theme; We Stand Together with Refugees this year, World Refugee Day was declared in 2000 by the UN General Assembly, to draw attention to the plight of refugees across the globe.