Not just another day at the office – registering asylum seekers in Uganda

Not just another day at the office – registering asylum seekers in Uganda

They mainly flee from war. At night they hear gunshots.

Margaret Kyomugisha, Head of the Registration Office at Nakivale

CONTEXT

Continuous fear of imminent attacks from armed groups in East Africa has forced millions to leave behind their homes. For decades Uganda has experienced a high level of refugee migration and, influenced by its own history, has always applied a generous asylum policy. While the majority of refugees originate from neighbouring countries, the diversity of nationalities and ethnicities make the group varied and often complex to manage. The EU is funding UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister to strengthen the protection of refugees at Uganda's borders.

OBJECTIVES

  • To strengthen the protection of refugees at Uganda's borders.
  • To reinforce the capacity of government departments and training staff.
  • To make the process for the asylum seekers more humane and orderly.

RESULTS

  • Waiting time for the refugees to receive their food ration has been cut from 7-10 days to 2-4 days.
  • The EU funded the refurbishment of the Kabazana reception centre for asylum seekers and equipped a vocational training centre.
  • The capacity of government departments and training staff has been reinforced.

FACTS AND FIGURES

  • The camp stretches over 185 km2 with three zones: Rubondo, Base Camp and Juru, covering a total of 67 villages.
  • An estimated 72 000 refugees are currently located here.
  • The EU is working with the police, the army, civil society and the Refugee Department of the Office of the Prime Minister.

PARTNERS

TESTIMONY

Shorter waiting times for a more humane asylum process

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.