The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency on Monday announced conclusion of the countrywide biometric verification exercise of all asylum-seekers and refugees in Uganda.
The exercise according a joint statement released by the two bodies was concluded on Wednesday October 24th 2018, in the last two remaining locations – Bidibidi refugee settlement and Kampala.
The verification exercise commenced in March 2018 following a joint announcement and commitment by the Prime Minister of Uganda Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mr Filipo Grandi to undertake an audit to establish the number of refugees and asylum seekers in the country.
Over the past eight months, OPM and UNHCR conducted the verification exercise with six teams operating simultaneously in refugee settlements in Uganda. Over 400 staff were involved in the exercise and moved across more than 68 verification sites set up by World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR,” the statement revealed.
At the end of the exercise, the refugee agency says a total of 1.1 million refugees were verified and biometrically enrolled from the target population of 1.4 million refugees.
This represents 75% of the population that had sought asylum in Uganda prior to the verification start date in March 2018.
It should be remembered that the agency had months ago placed the number refugees from South Sudan alone to 1.1million.
Explaining the difference, UNHCR and OPM stressed that a number of factors are responsible for fewer registered refugees.
“Verification exercises conducted in any refugee situation usually result in reductions in numbers. Many factors contribute to these reductions, including movement around the country or beyond, or simply no-shows.”
The factors, they said, played a role in the Ugandan context.
“There were also some cases of multiple registrations by refugees at the height of the emergency influxes of South Sudanese refugees between mid-2016 and mid-2017, when registration systems were sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer number and speed of arrivals. These cases were identified and removed from the database.”
As the verification was completed in settlements, according to the bodies, new food assistance collection procedures were rolled out by WFP, UNHCR and OPM.
“Under the new system, each person receiving assistance is confirmed against biometric data collection in the verification exercise. These procedures mitigate the risk of fraud, ensuring that assistance is well managed and provided only to verified, eligible refugees and asylum-seekers.”