The Office of the Prime
Minister-OPM has embarked on plans to open a new refugee settlement in Acol-pii,
a former Internally Displaced People’s Camp in Pader District to accommodate
more South Sudan refugees.
The development comes as Palabek
Refugee Settlement in Lamwo District is running out of space to host the surging population of refugees fleeing military unrest in neighboring
Officially opened in April 2017
at the height of renewed violence in Africa’s youngest nation, Palabek Refugee settlement
sits on a 50 square miles piece of land and is now home to some 58,000 South
Axel Okurut, the Assistant
Settlement Commandant at Palabek Refugee Settlement Camp told URN in an interview
that the refugee settlement was initially opened to accommodate a maximum of 60,000
This was after an expansion from
the 40,000 refugees’ capacity it was meant to host at its initial opening in
Okurut notes that with only 2,000
refugees left to hit the maximum capacity, OPM has moved in quickly to verify its
land in Acol-Pii in Pader Sub-county, some 18 kilometers away from Pader Town
Council for its suitability in hosting South Sudan refugees.
Acol-pii was one of the largest
IDPs and hosted close 20,000 South Sudan refugees before its closure in 2002
after a brutal raid by Lord Resistance Army rebels that left 60 refugees dead.
Okurut says a team of OPM
officials and the humanitarian agency UNHCR made a tour of the site recently for
verification and found it suitable and spacious for hosting more refugees.
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He notes that development
partners have already been given a hint on the new development but notes that
discussions on when the center may been open for more refugees are ongoing at higher levels.
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Hillary Onek, the Minister for
Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees also Lamwo County legislator confirms
the development saying it is intended to avoid congestion since the land
offered in Palabek is soon getting used up.
Onek says the settlement currently
consists of a population of over 70,000 people with over 57,000 being South
Sudan refugees and the rest the host community.
“In Palabek, the population is
about 70,000 to 80,000 and the refugees have gone up to about over 57,000, so we
intended to limit the number so that they (refugees) don’t over shadow the host
population,” Onek told URN in a telephone interview on Monday.
Onek however says establishment
of the settlement wont affect the fifth Division army headquarters at Acol-pii
which partially sits on the land.
Pader Resident District
Commissioner Dusman Okee says the move is welcome, adding that they will
embrace the idea.
Recently, officials from Palabek
revealed that more South Sudan refugees were taking illegal routes to cross
into the country despite closure of the borders due to coronavirus disease. Ugandan borders have been closed since March last year to asylum seekers following
outbreak of covid-19.
However, in Lamwo District alone,
statistics from OPM indicates that between June to August this year, a total of
322 new arrivals of South Sudan refugees were registered at Palabek Refugee
Uganda is currently home to a
total of 933,089 refugees from South Sudan as of September 30.