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Language Barrier Hindering Refugee Access to Justice–Report

Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the Executive Director LASPNET, says cases like sexual assault; theft and trespass are on the increase among the refugee host communities.
26 May 2019 15:55

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Refugees in Isingiro and Arua districts find it hard to access justice due language barrier, a new report by the Legal Aid Service Providers Network- (LASPNET) has revealed.

The report titled, “Report on Rule of Law, Access to Justice, and Security Needs of Refugees and Host Communities in Arua and Isingiro Districts,” reveals that many refugees fail to get justice due to language barrier among other factors.

The report was compiled from a study conducted by LASPNET in conjunction with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and United Nations Development in the two districts.

The study shows that many cases involving refugees flop because they are unable to unable to speak English and other local languages yet only a few translators are available.  

The survey that was conducted between January and October 2018 shows that some refugees have been exploited by people who take advantage of their situation with cases of sexual assault topping the list.      

    

The report notes that despite the fact that government has taken special steps to respond to the justice and security needs of refugees and host communities such as increased deployment of Police and military personnel, the use of mobile courts and legal awareness sessions in refugee settlements, Language barrier remains a serious challenge.  

Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa, the Executive Director LASPNET, says cases like sexual assault; theft and trespass are on the increase among the refugee host communities. 

She says they are advocating for the provision of platforms for effective networking to ensure that refugees are protected and their rights are observed. 

//Cue in: “the network does… 

Cue out:………of law issues:”//     

Mbarara Resident judge, Dr. Flavian Zeija has challenged government to partner with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other agencies to address the challenge of inadequate interpreters to support the refugees.

He says that some cases have been abandoned due to language barrier or when some of the key witnesses opt to return to their countries. 

‘’We are at times forced to leave the cases not only because of this, but also some witnesses go back to their countries before justice is delivered,” he said.

The gaps identified in the report include; shortage of facilities and human resources. For instance, Isingiro district has 1 police officer for every 2,780 people, far below the recommended international ratio of 1:450.   

Apparently, Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa with over 1.2 million refugees mainly from South Sudan DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Eritrea.   

Nakivale refugee settlement in Isingiro district, which sits on 71.3sq Km of land, hosts 109,000 refugees.