Government has raised a red flag over an unprecedented number refugee applications from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
A total of 280 Pakistani nationals have submitted applications for refugee status in the recent past. However, the minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek is suspicious that they could only be coming in as ‘fortune seekers’ instead of refugees running away from their country.
Onek made the statements on the sidelines of the regional conference on jobs, livelihoods and self-reliance of refugees, returnees and host communities. The conference organized under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is taking place at Speke Resort Munyonyo in Kampala.
According to Onek, several of the IGAD member states have become intolerant to refugees, forcing many of them to find a safe haven in Uganda. IGAD member states include Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Djibouti.
Onek says that although the government has approved some refugees, the over 280 Pakistani who are living in Kampala and other parts of the country cannot be accepted for now as refugees, adding that the issue needs to be handled with care since Uganda does not have a common border with Pakistan.
He wondered what prompted the Pakistani nationals left the other countries in between Uganda and Pakistan to opt to settle in Uganda as refugees.
Onek hinted on the hundreds of people from Asian countries who have come into Uganda disguising as investors and end up exploiting opportunities at the expense of Ugandans. He says whereas some nationals come in to actually escape violence and persecution, others are hunting for wealth.
There are at least 311 Pakistani refugees in Uganda today. Pakistan, a country of 197 million people has seen its development impeded by terror and economic stagnation and fraught relations between its neighbours; India and Afghanistan.
Onek also says with terrorism that is now a global threat, Uganda needs to be vigilant while admitting refugees. Uganda hosts 1.2 m refugees. Among these are refugees from Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Kenya, Sudan, and Eritrea among others.