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Donors issue ultimatum on verification of refugees

Refugees from South Sudan arrive at a receiving camp in West Nile.

Donors have given the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Uganda government until September to verify the number of refugees in the country or they withdraw funding.

The joint statement, which was released by, among others, European Union Ambassador to Uganda Attilio Pacifici and US Ambassador Deborah Malac, asked the concerned stakeholders to fast-track the investigations into the scandal where billions of shillings meant for refugees in the country has allegedly been swindled.

This website understands that UNHCR, government and the donors are all carrying out independent investigations.

In response, Ms Teresa Ongaro, UNHCR senior regional spokesperson, said they are working with all stakeholders to strengthen monitoring mechanisms in all refugee operations so as to avoid corruption and exploitation of refugees living in Uganda.

“Out of that process, we will produce the reassurances needed for the funding not to be interrupted,” Ms Ongaro told journalists in Kampala on Wednesday.

Donors’ threats come on the backdrop of allegations of abuse of funds for refugees by government officials in the Office of the Prime Minister and those in the UN system. Britain this week announced that they are withholding their contribution to the refugee cause until the allegations are investigated and the culprits brought to book. In response, Uganda has since then suspended four officials from the Office of the Prime Minister over the scandal.

Uganda is host to about 1.4 million refugees, majority of who are from the South Sudan, with the rest coming from the DRC, Burundi, Somalia and Rwanda. The country has been hailed as one with the friendliest refugee policies in the world. However, the recent events have tarnished the reputation of the country, adding to the already image over rampant corruption in many government departments.

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