Uganda has come out to air its concerns over refugees from terror-ridden nations, noting that they could pose grave security challenges for the nation.
Over the years, Uganda has received refugees from war-torn countries including Somalia.
On Thursday the minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, Hilary Onek, said Uganda has already received refugees from Pakistan. He added that they were concerned that more refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries devastated by armed conflicts in the Middle East may end up in Uganda.
The minister was telling the visiting UK parliamentary under-secretary of state for international development, Nick Hurd, in Kololo, a Kampala suburb, the New Vision reported. Hurd visited the country to have a first-hand experience in the innovations and solutions employed to support refugees and host communities in Uganda.
“This stretches our security. We do not want the Orlando scenario here. However, the security forces are doing everything possible to deal with such possible threats, and I want to commend them for the job well done so far,” said Onek.
On Sunday, a suspected terrorist on a shooting orgy killed 49 people and injured many more in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in the US and the nation's worst terror attack since the September 11, 2001, assault.
Uganda, the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa behind Ethiopia and Kenya, has over half a million refugees from East Africa, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes regions. The east African nation is the eighth largest refugee-hosting nation in the world.
Many of the refugees residing in the country are from Somalia, a country that has been struggling with armed gangs terrorizing citizens who have been lacking a functional government for over two decades.
Uganda's fear on the rising number of refugees is based on a real twin bombing attack in Kampala that was undertaken by Somalia’s Al-Shabaab terrorists group on July 11, 2010. The attack left 70 people dead. According to the terrorists, the assault on Uganda was a retaliation attack for the nation’s involvement in the fight terrorism in Somalia.
The announcement comes after Kenya said that it would not be receiving any more refugees from Somalia citing security reasons and called on international community to step in.
Kenya, which hosts more than 600,000 refugees mostly from neighboring Somalia, said it would close the world’s largest refugee camps Dadaab and Kakuma.
Kenya said that it had decided on the drastic measure after taking into “consideration its national security interests.”
Although the move received a lot of criticism from the international community, Kenya maintained its stand adding that it had been forced to resort to the harsh measures as refugees, through a 2013 tripartite agreement between the governments of Kenya and Somalia together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), have failed to take up the voluntary return to their homeland, Somalia.
On its part, Uganda has also said that it is not ready to receive refugees from Kenya when the country closes its camps by the end of the year as planned.
“We already have a refugee influx from other countries. We will not accept refugees from Kenya because we are already overstretched,” Onek added, calling on the International Community to step up support to refugee-hosting countries.
In his recent visit to Kenya, Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said Somali refugees are welcome home (Somalia) to take part in nation building. He added that the repatriation would be orderly.
The head of state thanked Kenya for hosting the refugees for 25 years noting that the training and skills acquired by the immigrants during the stay would come in handy in building Somalia when they get back.
The visiting UK official thanked Uganda for its kindness and generosity. “We would like to engage with Uganda at every opportunity. We appreciate your efforts in making refugees self-reliant and integration of refugee concerns in national development plans.”
Image credit: UNHCR/L.Beck