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Uganda to investigate allegations of refugee fraud
February 24, 2018, 2:48 pm

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has welcomed the move by the Ugandan government to investigate alleged wrongdoings in the country’s refugee programs.

Allegations of inflating refugee numbers, trafficking of women and children, and fraud first came to light in local media, after UN representative in Uganda, Rosa Malango, made a spot check at a refugee camp in the capital Kapala and found only 7,000 refugees, against the official figure of 19,000.

According to official figures, Uganda is reported to be hosting a total of around 1.4 million refugees, mostly from South Sudan and DR Congo. The new allegations will cast doubts on those figures. Other assertions in the media report include faking documents on delivery of food assistance, as well as demanding refugees pay bribes to access various services that should be free of cost.

So far, four government officials including the Commissioner for Refugees in Uganda, Apollo Kazungu have been suspended as investigations also consider whether UN aid agencies were involved in the fraud.

“UNHCR takes all allegations of corruption, fraud and misconduct very seriously. Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those involved in refugee response causes great harm to the people we care for and erodes public confidence and donor trust. It is also a disservice to the model policies of Uganda, a country hosting more than a million refugees,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa.”

Uganda operates an open border policy and allows refugees to enjoy similar rights to those enjoyed by its own citizens, provides access to social services and allocates land for shelter and agriculture.

A spokesperson of the prime minister whose office leads the overall refugee response in coordination with UNHCR and other UN aid agencies says ‘the investigations will determine what the facts are and what action to take’. ‘‘These reports do not change or deter Uganda’s long-held record and commitment to providing safety to refugees,” the spokesperson said.

UNHCR is also quick to point out that ‘corrupt acts of individuals should not be attributed to the integrity of all. The agency commends the government and the people of Uganda for offering ‘remarkable hospitality and generosity’ in sharing their land and resources for decades.

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