Addressing the media at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala this morning, Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness and Rosa Malango, the United Nations representative in Uganda, said, whereas Uganda has an open-door policy for refugees and asylum seekers, they have suspended receiving of new arrivals with immediate effect for a period of 30 days.
Press Conference at the Media Centre
The government of Uganda has announced today that the country will no longer
welcome new refugees and asylum seekers.
The move is in response to a presidential directive to close all borders as a measure, initially to
prevent but now to slow the spread a new strain of Coronavirus-COVID-19, which is causing havoc in almost
every part of the world. Nine Ugandans have so far been confirmed as having
contracted the virus.
Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media
Centre in Kampala this morning, Musa Ecweru, Uganda’s Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness and Rosa Malango, the United Nations representative
in Uganda, said, whereas Uganda has an open-door policy for refugees and asylum
seekers, they have suspended receiving of new arrivals with
immediate effect for a period of 30 days.
“...We would, however, like to stress that
refugees who are already in the country will continue to receive the support
and solidarity in line with the guidelines issued by Ministry of Health,” a
joint statement issued by the two officials reads in part.
It adds that all reception centres at
the borders such as Sebagoro, Nyakabande, Matanda, Elegu and Ntoroko as well
as the Department of Refugees offices in Kampala and Old Kampala Police Desk
Refugee Office will close with
immediate effect for a period of 30
days. The transit centres, the statement
adds, will be decongested and later closed.
The statement further details the arrangement
through which refugees and asylum seekers who are already in Uganda will stay
in the country.
They will not be allowed to move from one settlement to another or even move between Uganda and their countries of origin for purposes of farming,
checking on relatives.
“All measures being implemented across the country
like frequent hand washing, use of sanitizers, and the ban on communal,
political, cultural activities and mass gatherings, among others, shall apply in the settlements within Uganda. Precautionary
measures will be implemented for the delivery of critical services,” the
The statement adds that all schools in
settlements and host communities shall remain closed, while UNHCR and other UN
agencies will provide hand sanitizers and other relevant protective gear to
frontline staff in all refugee settlements.
“UN agencies and their partners will
provide immediate screening gadgets, adequate health workers and facilitation;
strengthen coordination of preparedness and response efforts for COVID-19 at national
and Sub National levels; enhance capacity for surveillance, active case search,
and timely investigation of all alert and suspected cases at health facility
and community levels; enhance capacity at the points of an entry addressing gaps
in surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, monitoring and population
mobility tracking,” the statement says.
Uganda currently hosts the largest
refugee population in Africa with 1,411,098 refugees and asylum seekers as of February 29, 2020. The refugees are hosted in
13 districts of Adjumani, Arua, Moyo, Yumbe, Lamwo, Kiryandongo, Kyegeegwa,
Kamwenge, Isingiro, Obongi, Koboko, Kikuube host refugees in 30 settlements
plus 79,958 refugees in Kampala City.
Until March 21, Uganda was continuing to receive new refugees and asylum seekers
daily and respond to the protection and assistance needs of the new arrivals from
mainly three countries; South Sudan, DRC and Burundi.: