- The corruption scandal in the OPM acted as an eye opener for the exercise
- The exercise is to be completed by this September
- Those who are verified will receive new ration cards, and biometric identification will henceforth be used to provide individual assistance.
- Verification involves collecting fingerprints, scanning eyes, and recording information about refugees’ vulnerabilities
Following the corruption scandal that rocked Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), charged with managing the refugee crisis in Uganda, the government and UNHCR has started verification exercise of all the refugees in the country.
The biometric refugee verification exercise was launched today in Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Mbarara district. The corruption scandals that has left some officials in the Office of the Prime Minister suspended, has tainted the image of Uganda, that been praised globally for being hospitable to host the South Sudanese, and Congolese refugees.
The launch was presided over by Douglas Asiimwe, the Officer in Charge of Refugee Protection in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). He was accompanied by UNHCR Representative, Bornwell Kantande and the Country Director of the World Food Programme, El Khidir Daloum.
They toured the site where 64 OPM and UNHCR staff are conducting the verification supported by 42 volunteers from the refugee community, who are assisting with translation. The West Nile region is equally hosting thousands of South Sudan refugees and Congolese. Nebbi and Zombo districts have also been receiving Congolese refugees in the past three weeks.
Top: South Sudan refugees being tagged upon arrival at Kuluba reception center in Koboko and some of the children with tags as part of the registration. All photos by Felix
Addressing refugees at the site, Asiimwe explained that the Government was using UNHCR’s advanced registration tools to improve refugee data.
“The exercise follows a directive by the Prime Minister to authenticate the data contained in the Government’s refugee registration system. It will help us to ensure that we have credible information to protect and assist refugees effectively and efficiently,” he said.
The UNHCR Representative commended the show of goodwill by the Government, which demonstrates its commitment towards ensuring responsibility and accountability in the refugee response. “This verification exercise will benefit you and your families,” he told the refugees. Your children and the children in host communities must go to school. Elderly people, too, must be supported.”
Kantande called on the refugees to cooperate with the verification teams, and to be patient. “If they ask questions, it is to make sure that proper information is recorded. That information is needed to support the Government to provide you services,” he added.
The South Sudan refugees receiving food from World Food Program in Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe district.
The WFP Country Director highlighted the importance of partnership. “We are here to support the Government, the people of Uganda and UNHCR so together we can serve you better. By conducting this verification, the Government is making a milestone step and is proving to the international community that we are delivering accountability to all of you. It will equip us to deliver food to the right people and leave no one behind.”
He announced to cheers from the refugees that in January this year WFP lifted the ration cuts affecting 236,000 refugees who had been receiving half rations for a year and a half.
In the coming weeks, the verification exercise will be rolled out to all refugee settlements and urban refugees in Kampala. The countrywide exercise will be completed in September 2018, with six teams working over the coming months to register 18,000 people a day.
Current Government statistics put the number of refugees in Uganda at 1.4 million, of whom over one million entered the country during the past 18 months. There are continuing new arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.