By Jumah Nsubuga
Members of parliament seating on the parliamentary committee on presidential Affairs yesterday grilled the minister of relief, disaster preparedness and refugees Hillary Onek whether government has a comprehensive plan to return refugees to their countries.
The MPs said that, since development partners have cut aid to Uganda, it will be difficult for Uganda government to cater for the increasing number of refugees in Uganda.
“Government should make plans to return them back to their countries since there is peace in their respective countries. These people have already occupied our land and some have started inter-marrying with Ugandans which mean that government by all means has to cater for them. They should go back to their countries by all means. We have given a lot of liberty to refugees. We should construct a perimeter for them to block them associating with Uganda if they have refused to go back to their countries” Said Aruu county MP Odong Otto.
“The population in Uganda needs services but government is dividing resources to cater for refugees. Government should create a comprehensive plan to return refugees to their respective countries. Government should also do all the possibilities to convince refugees to go back to their countries” Said Butaleja district woman MP Florence Nibanda.
Bekedia county MP Ekuma George said that “Uganda has just passed a law on Homos which annoyed international community and withdrew aid from Uganda. How is Uganda government going to cater for these refugees with the limited resources? There is peace in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya, their government should come for them and take responsibilities on them than putting our government on risk”.
While responding to angry MPs, minister Onek said that refugees are in Uganda because they have conflicts in their home countries. “We are trying to develop a policy to see whether these people can be kept in areas where there is peace in their home countries. I have several times held meeting with government s of Rwanda and Burundi to see that these people are taken back but they are still planning for them” He noted.
Meanwhile the commissioner refugee programmee Mr Apolo Kazungu said that, government has tripartite arrangements with governments where refugees come from on the return of them however added that the ministry has a challenge of returning Rwandese refugees since their government has kept a deaf ear over the matter.
Mr Kazungu confirmed to MPs that Uganda currently hosts over 334848 refugees from countries like Somalia, Congo, South Sudan among others adding that the number of refugees is likely to raise due to the ongoing conflicts South Sudan and individual refugees who trickle into the country from relatively stable countries for individual security concerns.
He said that apparently Congo has the big number of refugees with 170259 seconded by South Sudan with a total of 93146, Rwanda with 14792, Somalia 17792, Kenya 1010, Burundi 13031, Eritrea 5201, Ethiopia 1448, Sudan 1261 and others 9871.