Uganda Police raid refugee camps for Rwandans
Kampala: Police in South western Uganda raided the Nakivale settlements where some 10,000 Rwandan refugees live to forcefully repatriate them, refugee protection groups said Thursday.
The Ugandan authorities in the area lured the refugees on Wednesday morning and began rounding them up against their will to board trucks to return them to Rwanda, according International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) and the Refugee Law Project (RLP).
Shots were fired by police, say witnesses. Some individuals are said to have been injured during the process, and in some cases parents were separated from children. Reports further suggest that Rwandan security agents and authorities were present at the scene – which has been denied by officials in Rwanda.
A Ugandan government minister Musa Francis Ecweru said Wednesday evening that those being targeted for forced repatriation includes about 1,500 Rwandans who do not have refugee status. They include people who fled to Uganda recently and an evaluation of their status shows they are just economic migrants, said the Minister.
However, campaigners are bitter and are demanding for answers from the Ugandan authorities, and also “an immediate halt to the current removal process”.
“By removing settlement-based Rwandans in this manner, the Ugandan government is in breach of its own Citizenship and Immigration Act, which outlines the due processes by which failed asylum seekers who have exhausted their right of appeal should be deported,” said the two refugee protection groups.
“It has also violated the obligations created by domestic and international law, including the Constitution, the Children’s Statute and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These breaches come just days before the African Union Summit on ‘Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa’ is due to begin in Kampala.”
The two organizations last month released a damning report detailing accounts of purported Rwandans fleeing. Several of them interviewed claimed they could not return to Rwanda for fear of persecution.
The report made a number of recommendations to the governments of Uganda and Rwanda, and to UNHCR, in order to improve protection for this group of refugees.
In particular, it stated that the Ugandan government must scrupulously uphold its international and national legal obligations with regard to the protection of refugees and to the truly voluntary nature of any repatriation.
Incidentally, the report was published a day after President Kagame and Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had described the fleeing individuals as “not genuine refugees”.