KAMPALA: The government, with support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), will today repatriate 366 Burundi refugees.
The refugees are part of some 450 at Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Isingiro District who registered for voluntary repatriation back to their homes.
Mark Mutawe, the Settlement Commandant of Nakivale Refugee Settlement, told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the refugees are the 18th batch of Burundian nationals being repatriated since the beginning of the year.
According to Mutawe, the initiative is a result of a tripartite agreement between Uganda, the Burundian government, and humanitarian agencies to ensure the voluntary return of refugees.
Mutawe says that there were initially 450 Burundian refugees who had registered for the voluntary repatriation, but six families tested positive for COVID-19. He says the six families will be repatriated among the next batch of returnees once they recover.
Mutawe notes that despite repatriation being the answer to de-congesting the refugee settlement, the numbers of refugees volunteering for the repatriation, especially Burundians, are still low.
He says the refugee settlement is currently receiving a high number of refugees, mostly from the DR Congo through Kisoro. For example, he claims that approximately 900 new arrivals are welcomed each week at the Rubondo Zone in Nakivale.
The French Ambassador to Uganda, Jules-Armand Aniambossou, while inspecting the French government-supported food security and livelihood projects at Nakivale Refugee settlement on Tuesday, lauded the government for its open-door policy to refugees.
Aniambossou noted that the policy was unique and progressive in the world since it welcomed refugees from all corners of the globe. The country’s refugee policy gives refugees and asylum seekers freedom of movement and the right to work.
The Ambassador promised that the French government would continue to assist refugees in the country, particularly in the areas of food security, climate change mitigation, and livelihood enhancement.
Through Action Against Hunger (ACF), the French government gave out a 1.2 billion shilling grant for the implementation of a food aid project dubbed “improving the nutrition, food security, and self-reliance of refugees in South Western Uganda.”
The one-year grant rolled out from June last year to July this year supported about 5,000 refugees and host communities in the refugee settlements of Nakivale in Isingiro and Kikube Districts, respectively.
According to the Office of the Prime Minister, 7,000 Burundian refugees have so far returned home voluntarily since the year began.
The Nakivale Refugee Settlement is home to some 145,613 refugees, the majority of whom are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as of June this year, according to a report from the Office of the Prime Minister. Of the total population, 31,143 are refugees from Burundi.