By Sadiki Patrick | Staff Writer
The Office of the Prime Minister OPM, Kyangwali Refugee Settlement carried out an investigation that revealed many nationals were living in the refugee camp, under a false pretense of being refugees. These nationals include Banyankole, Bafumbira and Banyoro, some of whom according to our reporting had even obtained documentation to prove their refugee status.
On June 7 this year, a team of 8 security personnel who included Mr. Bwengye, a UPDF Officer and policemen rounded up and arrested all those nationals who were identified to be living in the refugee camp. They arrested about 8 individuals in the morning of that day and these criminals were taken directly to prison as investigation went on.
As many refugees have been raising complaints on the services provided by the OPM and other partners, a survey was carried to identify some of the issues they (refugees) want to see an improvement. It all started with the distribution of cash, with many people transitioning from food distribution to cash distribution. The population was rapidly increasing causing an imbalance between the resources and relief aid including money that is usually allocated to the refugee community leading to an investigation into people who are nationals on a suspicion that they might have registered as refugees. The arrest of the eight individuals proves those on the team investigating the problem right.
Mr. Bwengye says that they already knew that there were nationals residing in the settlement but had been gathering more details to be precise at the time of the arrests. OPM made partnership with other organizations such as Hunger Fighters Uganda (HFU) who came to the camp for field work three months ago, and also Word Food Program (WFP) that manages the preparation and distribution of food. This partnership then conducted an emergency refugee population census and came up with a number higher than that registered by the OPM, forcing them to call for a meeting to discuss the issue. It is said that these nationals who have been registered have been coming in the camp through different ways. Surprisingly, their attestations and ration cards indicate that they have been registered by the OPM but unfortunately the protection department who are in charge of verification say they did not even appear in their database.
Mr. Bwengye Dickens said that these people had been obtaining the registration credentials through unknown channels without the consent of the people in charge.
Surprisingly, these people have been found with national identity cards. And others have been living around neighboring places; villages in the outskirts of the refugee camp to be precise. According to Kyangwali News reporting, these nationals pretending to be registered refugees are attracted to obtaining the status because they see many refugee families getting resettled overseas. It was revealed that they feel the argue to be resettled to America, Australia, Sweden, Norway and other countries like many Congolese refugees have in recent years. Some of them have been in the settlement for business and needed that extra assurance for these businesses and themselves.
The victims are still under imprisonment as investigations go on. Mr. Bwengye told Kyangwali News that all these people have been in the camp for some good period of time and have been under the protection department warning for sneaking and not abiding by the laws. He also said that it is illegal for nationals to seek refuge in their own countries. This raises questions to the government on how citizens are registering as refugees yet there are no wars, or even famine that would make them seek to be hosted in a refugee camp.
When the victims talked to a Legal Officer at Kyangwali prison, they said that they are refugees not nationals as people say. It is said that they have been pinpointed by fellow refugees and isolated from others just because of their appearance. It is difficult to legally challenge this because there is enormous proof with the OPM and their absence in the database adds to a worst case scenario.