This publication is meant to create awareness of existence, experiences and impact felt by urban refugees. It further enables public gain better understanding of refugee needs, challenges and refugee perception on inclusive strategies, their voices depicting their experiences with the URP run by IAU in and around Kampala.
The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) where Uganda is considered among the pilot countries for its implementation, opens up opportunity for local integration within East Africa, already existing communities are improving co-existence. Improvement in aspects of service delivery at the end of the day all communities need to sustain their livelihoods. One concern is the issue of endless wars in the region there is need to maintain stability, keep Uganda as an Oasis, avoid war, enhance capacity of Uganda to stay stable, and for the others to negotiate peace.
The Uganda Government friendly policy includes security for Persons of Concern, Ugandan’s are applauded for the friendly attitude of the local communities, nationals towards PoC do not discriminate even for PoC who are doing business, they can sell their products without fear of being harassed There is however need to improve through creation of awareness through campaigns, for more funds to handle vulnerable local communities for better integration.
Uganda is a friendly Refugee Country, the policies provide a good environment friendly refugee space. The policy guidelines concerning refugees and asylum seekers in the Urban has evolved over time, more recently with the new framework in place, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). He said this framework is meant to promote local solutions to the question of managing refugees and asylum seekers on the one part, while providing durable solutions, as well as avenues for local integration of refugees in normal life. He emphasized the need to closely work with leaders, where IAU and partners recognize inclusiveness of service delivery beginning with planning, implementation and monitoring process.
KCCA works with IAU on Urban Refugee matters, to respond better there is need to identify what refugees need and reach every one especially in Kampala Urban. KCCA’s position is like that of a Land Lord who is responsible for refugee welfare and well-being in Kampala Urban, while she noted some gaps, due to communication, and new refugee leaders who need sensitized. Observed that language barrier sometimes underplays importance of recognizing refugee leaders in their support at community level. He urged the refugee leaders to respect their duty, and KCCA fully supports all programs including that of refugees and finding appropriate response including the enforcement teams.
Learning English language has been a new experience for majority of Urban Refugees in the Urban, by the time of registration from their Countries of Origin, some did not know English or local Languages which is a main medium of exchange after some time they now can speak. One male refugee expressed his appreciation to staff from agencies; UNHCR, OPM, IAU leadership for the big heart they have for refugees, the local authorities; RDC’s office that have always had programs that help refugees in the urban to better cope.
A Member of the Board at IAU caution the refugees to leave out bad habits and extended one million thanks to all refugees, for instance IAU enabled better access to employment when 45 members of the Urban Refugee Drivers Association recently obtained their driving permits with support from IAU and now employed to the extent that they have no problem with the Traffic Police, refuges are urged to move orderly for peaceful co-existence with host communities.
One of female refugee from Rwanda who narrated that she spent the last 17 years as a Refugee in Uganda; can now speak Luganda very well, and thanked the Baganda who she referred to as brothers and sisters, and being a senior member of the community she could confidently make these remarks. While speaking in Luganda continued to say,”Wenatuka nina buzibu ku sinkana Police, OPM Special Branch, kine baza. Refugee Abaleka kwebaza, grateful to all agencies concerned with refugee management in the Urban; UNHCR, OPM, IAU, The Police, Special branch, at first we were not comfortable, but now see these agencies as a friend.
Appreciated all the Urban Land Lords, her neighbors, in addition thanked schools hosting refugee children. the Land Lords are recognized to have treated refugees very well and this has made them feel like they were at home, “ebitongole tobiyamba”, she commended the elders in resolving all tension and conflict and now they live in harmony with host communities.
Among the services accessed by refugees in the Urban Programme at IAU; they received health services’, including access to special medication even when the health unit, the agency ensure that they get full treatment. Urban refugees thanked OPM likened them to Parent “omuzade” especially since they have issued Refugees IDs cards which helps to identify them as refugees, asylum seekers, The agency staff always find time to interact with refugees and all PoC have enjoyed peace and freedom.
The Faith based Institutions such as churches every week walk with refugees. For those doing business, “Makube Amachan”…. we do not hear in the same way, Following training and mentoring provided by IAU some refugees are now counselors, Community volunteer workers unlike other refugees who just want resettlement and nothing else. Fellow refugee leaders ware advised to work with all people, and promised to support the cause of the refugees, asked refugees to do things well and not just having the attitude that “one day we are going away”. When one harbor such attitude would make it difficult to cope, while fellow refugees should avoid misleading others “ ekitibwa mirembe”.
While refugees have run from insecurity so all must try to keep secure, as it is not secure when you can leave to go back to your country, for example those who are single mothers need their children enrolled at school, and some can even testify that their child finished school and this provides a sense of hope for a better future that was once lost.
We have also seen very close collaboration in Uganda between Government, the OPM, Implementing Partners Host Communities and refugees. The view from communities as a whole is that refugees groups are very friendly.
Despite the challenge refugee’s face with survival in the urban, In the rural refugee settlements at Kyangwali communities face destruction of the environmental tree cover. But in Kampala Urban everybody has to struggle and fight to survive at the same level. However all can access basic services at same level Nationals or refugees; for Housing, uber transport services, however the vulnerable members find difficulties and need targeted support to access services.
In future it would be important to enhance capacity for protection of unaccompanied minors, provide for safe houses for large number of protection cases. For victims of sexual gender based violence (SGBV) and persons with specific needs when they ask for asylum they feel secure.
The Government of Uganda has made it possible for access to health care, facilities need to increase their capacity as services are currently not enough to handle the level of demand. For example cases that need investigation scanning, operation, once diagnostics is done and patient is positive and needs services some of the specialized services are not available, and this calls for support. IAU is doing its best to provide refugees better access to health care but the services at the health facilities are inadequate. It is very important for donors to understand that they should not slow down support for such basic services including education.
In Uganda PoCs and host communities can plan better access to food and health is which is basic for all. Further foster feeling of belonging and recognition in the Urban can be able to help refugees who have experienced broken relationships and foster integration through social activities such as football teams, inter community dialogue, friends and work with communities in the urban different back grounds. Some PoC are now members of inter communal football teams, class room, association, church, mosque, none are isolated. Giving people feeling of belongingness, sense of life regardless of their country of origin. IAU could use these building block mechanisms on perception of Urban Refugee situation and pursue sustainable solutions.
The Urban Refugee Program does not get material support like food but expect to support decision about improving their lives through better access to services, .Refugees see joy and peace when they discover their information is validated providing them opportunity and relief, reducing the stress or feeling at risk of detention.