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Ugandan parliamentary committee calls for review of national refugee policy

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Refugees cooking food after entering Uganda. FILE PHOTO UNHCR

KAMPALA | Xinhua | A parliamentary committee in Uganda on Thursday urged for a review of the country’s refugee policy as the East African country grapples with a growing population of refugees.

The Committee on Equal Opportunities in its report to parliament said the rising numbers of refugees from neighboring countries was impacting negatively on the provision of social services like education and health care.

Donor budget cuts have further exacerbated the situation where some teachers have lost their jobs, and refugees are facing food cuts, said the report.

The committee recommended to parliament that the country’s open-door policy where refugees are allowed to enter the country freely needs to be reviewed to check on the numbers. It also recommended that the government engage other countries and international institutions in relocating refugees to third countries.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa, however, told the committee and parliament that it may be difficult to change the policy since people running away from a conflict cannot be stopped from seeking safety.

Prime Minister Robinah Nabanjja told parliament that despite the several challenges the country is facing in hosting the refugees, there cannot be a policy reversal of turning away refugees.

“They come to save their dear lives because we are secure and peaceful,” Nabanjja said, noting that Uganda has been hailed internationally for allowing refugees to seek safety in the country.

She said at several global refugee conferences, Uganda has fronted its challenges in hosting a huge number of refugees. She said international funding for the refugee crisis has dwindled due to other global challenges.

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Nabanjja said the government would soon issue a statement showing the measures being taken to address the challenges it is facing in addressing the refugee influx.

Deputy Speaker Tayebwa ruled that the committee reviews its report again and reports back to parliament.

Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the third in the world, hosting about 1.6 million refugees mainly from neighboring South Sudan, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. ■

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