Margaret Kyomugisha has genuine compassion for the people who pass through her office. She is the Head of the Registration Office at Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda and has registered asylum seekers for the last eight years.
Her day starts around eight in the morning and continues until six in the evenings, often without a lunch break. Up to 150 people come to the base camp every day to have their refugee status determined. But the journey to acquiring refugee status requires a huge amount of patience and waiting.
Each person Margaret comes across has their own unique story and has different needs. Margaret sees women who have lost children and husbands, people with disabilities, and traumatised, unaccompanied children. Each case is treated individually and she gives her best every time. "The work is interesting, I learn so much from the people. You do your part and you refer them, but it can be difficult," she says.
Before Margaret receives them, the asylum seekers have been through Government registration, where their nationality is verified. It is then up to her and her team to ensure that they receive an asylum seekers' certificate while they wait for their refugee status to be determined. The certificate gives them the right to basic farming equipment, a small piece of land and some non-food items. Most importantly it gives them three months of food rations.
"Before, it could take between 7 and 10 days before newcomers to the settlement got their food ration. For those with no family in the camp, those days can be very difficult," says Dedan Tugaine, Senior Registration Officer from the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR).
The main difficulty has been clearing the backlog of pending applications. Now the waiting time has been cut to between 2 and 4 days thanks to the EU funded programme.
"The aim has been to facilitate a faster process so that the refugees will be able to regain their livelihoods and get back to a 'normal' life. Besides reinforcing the capacity of government departments and training staff, the EU support has helped refurbish and expand the Refugee Status Determination Centre. These improvements "make the process for the asylum seekers more humane and the process more orderly," Dedan says.