KAMPALA – The heavy influx of refugees from DR. Congo into Uganda requires increased awareness and information on refugees by host communities. There is also a need as well as potential security risks vigilance in protecting Ugandans from Covid 19 transmission as refugees move back and forth. Uganda has been a host refugee country for a long. We are called to not only host refugees but also promote and protect their human rights. Human rights are entitlements and freedom enjoyed by everyone by virtue of being a human being. They are universal, unalienable, no-deroegable, indivisible, independent, etc. All people are entitled to the protection of their human rights. Refugees under the UN Refugee Convention enjoy certain rights to include freedom to work, freedom to access education, freedom to live their lives normally, right to protection from refoulement, right to education, freedom to movement and worship.
As we face an influx at Bunagana town council as the host community we ought to be mindful of who refugees are and what they are entitled too regardless of their vulnerable state. Refugees deserve basic human rights. Refugees seeking asylum here or elsewhere is not illegal in any way. They remain humans despite the issues affecting them that have forced them to relocate. Refugees also have a right to equality and non-discrimination, a right to life and personal security, a right to return as well as a right to remain. In the contemporary world, these refugee rights face threats. Unless we the hosts understand and appreciate their rights it becomes hard to promote and protect the same. Even when refugees do not understand their rights we must uphold the same as the host community. The majority of the refugees are elderly, children, and women who are not physically well.
Besides refugees’ rights, they have duties and responsibilities these include: a duty to return home once asylum is not necessary, a duty to remain in the first country of asylum, and a duty to submit to detention when it is ordered. Refugees also have a responsibility towards other refugees to host states and to the international community itself.
It is important to note that due to the survival mode of refugees they often shelve these duties/responsibilities. We must agree that their actions affect the rights and interests of others around them. This means that without prejudice to the vulnerability of refugees they must also honor, promote, understand and protect the basic human rights of host communities.
Across the world, refugees are frequently judged for violating various moral expectations and obligations. A case in point involved the Australian government during the “children overboard scandal of 2001” were refugees on boats purportedly threw babies in water. Such an act offends the natural instinct of protection and is bad. There is a need to promote the rights of refugees but also consider the duties of refugees. We ought to see refugees as moral agents with certain obligations and duties to others. We must understand the obligation refugees feel bound which can help us understand why they act so and reflect on their duties derived from a systematic moral analysis.
I believe there is a practical connection between the rights and duties of refugees. When refugees are seen as not fulfilling their duties then a violation of their rights is imminent. Therefore, a better understanding of the two is essential. Without prejudice, let us remember that refugees choose their country of ultimate asylum by considering how they might maximize the opportunities of their children or remittances for others left behind. Most of the World’s in best philanthropists, including George Soros, are former refugees informed by an idea of “giving back” after receiving the benefits of asylum in a country that allowed them to succeed. Refugees then, clearly feel the pull of various duties that grow out of their experiences of refugeehood.
Let us, therefore understand refugees as human agents responsible for their choices and human beings entitled to basic human rights. Let us welcome them as hosts and promote and protect those rights. Let us remind them of their duties and responsibilities to us the hosts. They ought to know that they are not victims but people subject to a range of external forces over which they have no control. Refugees are also agents, economic and social actors who shape and transform the world around them.
Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a senior advocate and member, leadership code tribunal