War, Violence and Persecution Push 500,000 Refugees to Uganda

Congolese refugees in Uganda

Conflict and persecution caused global forced displacement to escalate sharply in 2015 reaching the highest level ever recorded worldwide, ask according to a report released Monday by UNHCR, approved the UN Refugee Agency.

In Uganda, healing the number of refugees and asylum-seekers reached more than half a million for the first time in the country’s history. By the end of 2015, Uganda was hosting 512,968 refugees and asylum-seekers, the highest number in the country’s history.

Officials said Uganda has now become the 8th-largest refugee hosting country in the world and the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

When measured against the size of a country’s economy (GDP per person), Uganda is the fourth-largest refugee-hosting country. Three parallel emergency influxes from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi led to more than 100,000 people seeking safety in Uganda in 2015.

South Sudan continued to be the main driver of fresh displacement into Uganda, with on average 4,000 South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Uganda every month. Almost two-thirds of the new arrivals were children under the age of eighteen, presenting specific challenges in education and child protection. Many children arrived in the country having lost one or both of their parents, with some young children forced to become the main care-providers for younger siblings.

Roughly 3,000 people per month fled to Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo as violence amongst militia groups continued to terrorize communities in the Kivu provinces.

Refugees fleeing the region reported leaving behind immense human suffering as militia groups murdered civilians, raped woman and girls and kidnapped young men and boys in to their ranks.

Chaos Developing instability in Burundi led to a fresh emergency influx of new arrivals into Uganda during 2016.

Nearly 20,000 Burundians sought safety in Uganda during the course of the year, peaking during the election period in Burundi in June and July.

“Uganda’s approach to refugee management and protection is an inspirational model, and an example to other countries not only in the region but across the world,” said UNHCR Representative to Uganda Neimah Warsame.

“Ugandans understand that refugees are not beggars, competitors for jobs nor terrorists. Refugees are people like you and me, who through no fault of their own, have had their lives turned upside down and destroyed by violence. But we also understand that Uganda cannot tackle the refugee crisis alone. World leaders can no longer watch passively as so many lives are needlessly put at risk. We must be smart about finding solutions to help refugees and host communities.”

Upon receiving refugee status, refugees in Uganda are provided with small areas of land in villages integrated within the local host community; a pioneering approach that enhances social cohesion and allows both refugees and host communities to live together peacefully.

Refugees have access to the same services as Ugandan nationals; have the right to work and to establish their own businesses. They enjoy freedom of movement and are given land for agricultural use, reducing dependency on humanitarian aid.

The government has also included refugee management and protection within its own domestic planning in the National Development Plan (NDP II), through the [refugee] Settlement Transformative Agenda.

This approach means Uganda has created a fertile environment for including long-term development planning into the humanitarian response for refugees and their host communities.

Millions displaced UNHCR’s annual Global Trends report, which tracks forced displacement worldwide based on data from governments, partners including the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, and the organization’s own reporting, said 65.3 million people were displaced as of the end of 2015, compared to 59.5 million just twelve months earlier.

This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed. Measured against Earth’s 7.349 billion population these numbers mean that 1 in every 113 people globally is now either an asylum-seeker, internally displaced or a refugee – a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent.

In all, there are more forcibly displaced people today than the populations of the United Kingdom, France or Italy.

Forced displacement has been on the rise since at least the mid-1990s in most regions, but over the past five years the rate of climb has increased.

The reasons are threefold: Situations that cause large refugee outflows are lasting longer (for example, conflicts in Somalia or Afghanistan are now into their third and fourth decades, respectively), dramatic new or reignited situations are occurring frequently (today’s largest being Syria, but also in the space of the past five years South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine, Central African Republic etc.), and the rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War.

As recently as 10 years ago, at the end of 2005, UNHCR recorded an average of 6 people displaced every minute. Today that number is 24 a minute – almost double the typical frequency at which adults breathe.

“More people are being displaced by war and persecution and that’s worrying in itself, but the factors that endanger refugees are multiplying too,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“At sea, a frightening number of refugees and migrants are dying each year; on land, people fleeing war are finding their way blocked by closed borders. Politics is gravitating against asylum in some countries. The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today, and it’s this spirit of unity that badly needs to prevail.”

Most of the world’s refugees are in the Global South Europe’s struggles to manage the more than one million refugees and migrants who arrived via the Mediterranean dominated the attentions of many in 2015, nonetheless the report shows that the vast majority of the world’s refugees were elsewhere.

In all, 86 per cent of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate in 2015 were in low and middle income countries close to situations of conflict.

This figure rises to over 90 per cent of the world’s refugee total if the Palestinian refugees under the responsibility of UNHCR’s sister-organization UNRWA are included.

Worldwide, Turkey was the biggest host country with 2.5 million refugees. Lebanon, meanwhile hosted more refugees compared to its population than any other country (183 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants).

Relative to the size of its economy the Democratic Republic of the Congo hosted most (471 refugees for every dollar of per capita GDP, measured at price purchasing parity).


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