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Looking after refugees is UNHCR’s business, not ours – Oulanyah

Deputy-Speaker-of-Parliament-Jacob-Oulanyah wants United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to look after refugees in the country. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has questioned why Ugandan taxpayers should incur the cost of looking after refugees that come into the country, yet it is the mandate of United National High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to look after these people, saying the move has exerted financial burden to the hosting nations.

Mr. Oulanyah made the remarks today during the launch of the Parliamentary Forum on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons that is going to be headed by Mr. Kumama Nsamba (Bbale County).

He explained: “We have international conventions, one of them created UNHCR and mandated it dealing with refugees, a subsidiary responsibility rests with the hosting country, the full responsibility rests with UNHCR it is its international mandate, it should never renegade from it. I get concerned when it becomes the business of our own Office of the Prime Minister to be in charge of refugees.”

The Deputy Speaker added: “It isn’t right, somebody isn’t doing things right and your forum needs to thinks right, to have these things corrected because we are imposing a burden on a country which is already overburdened when it isn’t its responsibility to do that because UNHCR is supported by the globe, the world community supports UNHCR, why should it be a burden of Uganda? We are already hosting that is big enough, that is burden enough, why should we finance?”

He said that although the forum is set to co-exist with structures of Parliament, it isn’t a formal structure of Parliament and called on members of the forum of to understand deeply and articulate issues surrounding refugees if they are going to deal with this global subject.

Mr. Oulanyah tipped the members of the forum that the issue they are set to deal with is the bigger problem of migration and if they are to examine causes of migration, it is one of the subjects that is affecting the relationship between Africa and Europe because of what they are doing to stop refugees from going into their countries.

He said that among things to be dealt with is a discussion on what systems, laws, policies, mechanisms do we have in place to deal with these things and wondered why Uganda was caught in the bad limelight of manipulating numbers of refugees when there are agencies like UNHCR saying such a debate shouldn’t have happened because each time there is movement on borders there must be systems of receiving people because its territory is being invaded.

The Deputy Speaker said that the hosting nations should have the first access to people and gather where they are coming from and once they have done that assessment, they hand them to UNHCR which is internationally obliged to do these things.

“Now, when you have a situation of people having different numbers of refugees are, I get concerned that somebody isn’t doing things right, they are just gambling as if there are no structures or laws in place and that is annoying. So how would you have conflict in numbers, how is that even possible?” Mr. Oulanyah asked.

He added that UNHCR isn’t Uganda’s partner in the issue of refugees, and rather a responsibility of UNHCR and there is nothing like a partnership between UNHCR and the Government of Uganda, “It can’t be, Uganda has already signed the convention, it is obliged under the international law to do its part as a country. We shouldn’t mix up these issues, now you hear people being interdicted for stealing money because of conflict of numbers. That shouldn’t be hearing.”

The Deputy Speaker wondered why taxpayers should meet the cost of establishing a refugee policy yet Uganda is a signatory to the convention that has been domesticated, and whose provisions are clear on how we deal with refugees.

He also lashed out at the different names accorded to asylum seekers and refugees pointing out that Africans go to Europe, they are called immigrants but when Europeans come to Uganda, “We call them investors and that is a fact, we call them consultants, we give them all these glossy names and they are simply economic immigrants because that is the name we are given when we cross to Europe when we have skills.”

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