GULU–The Office of Gulu Resident District Commissioner (RDC) is concerned about the ever increasing number of urban refugees in Gulu Municipality.
The refugees pose a security threat to the locals, according to Gulu RDC Capt Santos Okot Lapolo.
“They have no jobs and money for rent is a problem to many families that chose to stay in town instead of the camps designated by government,” he said.
The refugees who fled conflict in their country continue to flock Uganda due to civil war between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former vice Riek Machar.
According to the US Centre for Preventive Action’s Global Conflict Tracker, more than 50,000 people have been killed and more than 1.6 million internally displaced since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013.
A total of 1.5 million South Sudan refugees are already settled in Uganda, according to statistics from United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR].
Speaking on Thursday during a local radio talkshow in Gulu, Capt Okot Lapolo said the office of the Prime Minister should register urban refugees who have settled within the municipality instead of joining others in designated refugee settlement camps in Adjumani, Lamwo and Arua.
He said unregistered urban refugees are a security threat and the mounting pressure on services to the combined population is high thus the need for proper planning.
“Most of their children are not going to school. When they came, they had money, now land lords are chasing them away for defaulting rent, some for 4 or even 6 months. Some have started taking Marijuana and they are all over the place especially in Kasubi and Kanyagoga parishes.”
Lapolo said the country needs to know the number of urban refugees in urban centres like Gulu Municipality so that services provided can reflect the needs and demands of the population.
“Law requires refugees to be in camps but there are those who are stealthily staying in Gulu Municipality without any data or document to show where they are coming from and authorization for their stay in those areas. Office of the Prime Minister should take seriously urban refugees living in Gulu, register them and have records for planning,” Lapolo said.
He adds that there are an estimated number of 2,000 South Sudanese illegally living within the municipality creating pressure on service delivery to the people.
“They are sharing schools, hospitals and accessing the same services with the community. What government sends is not enough. Office of the Prime Minister has not put any measure to have them in the plans for services and the effect of shortage is something we cannot compromise.”
The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, adopted in June 1981, Article 12(2) and (3), recognizes the right of every individual who risks being persecuted to “leave” their country and to “seek and obtain” asylum in another country.
Uganda has unwavering liberal refugee policy as seen in the acclaimed Uganda refugee Act 2006 that was expanded in 2010, to allow refugees in Uganda enjoy all rights as citizens except voting.
The rights include access to education, health care, traveling freely within the country and access to plots of land for both settlement and cultivation of food.