Uganda undecided on Afghan refugees

Hundreds of people gather outside Afghanistan's Kabul international airport on August 17, 2021. ||Associated Press

The government is still considering a request by the United States (US) government for Uganda to host at least 2,000 Afghan refugees, Foreign Affairs minister, Gen. Odongo Jeje has said.
Gen. Odongo told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee that the US government approached Uganda because of her international humanitarian record of helping people in distress and that it is on this record that the country is continuing to discuss the matter.

“No decision has been made, whether they will come or not. It’s a suggestion, a proposal; discussions are going on…no substantive decision has been made,” Odongo emphasized.

He told the committee chaired by Buliisa Woman MP Norah Bigirwa, that government will communicate a decision on the matter when it is finally made.

However, in a separate meeting between Parliament’s Presidential Affairs Committee and Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, he said that the Afghan refugees will be catered for by the American government.

“Because it is the one bringing them here for us to hold them here, while the American government is processing their documents for onward journey to America. So that is the information we got,” Onek said.

He was responding to a query about proposed plans to hold the refugees at Namboole Stadium which has been used by the government as a Covid-19 treatment centre.

Onek dismissed reports of hosting the Afghan refugees at Namboole saying that the stadium is never close to their minds when it comes to hosting refugees and therefore it is not on the program for Afghanistan.

“We shall put them in hotels…after all our hotels have been starving of customers. So hotels should also start earning money from this undertaking,” he added.

This week, the state minister for Disaster Preparedness, Esther Anyakun Davinia said that she had been asked by President Yoweri Museveni to make preparations to host 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

“They have requested us to host 2,000 refugees. We are expecting them to be brought in shifts of 500. So, UNHCR secured Imperial hotels in Entebbe as a transit center for them to first of all arrive and be screened,” she said.

U.N. High Commission for Refugees Uganda representative Joel Boutroue also confirmed the decision to receive the Afghan refugees.

Uganda is among the African countries that the US has courted to host the Afghan refugees after Taliban militants ousted Ashraf Ghani’s government. The Taliban were two decades ago deposed by American troops.

Government is next week expected to present a comprehensive statement to parliament on the proposal to host Afghan refugees following Wednesday’s directive by Deputy Speaker Anita Among.

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