Ugandans Sue UN Over “Illegal” Refugee Registration

Two private citizens have rushed to the Civil Division of the High Court challenging the ongoing process of registering refugees, on grounds that it’s being conducted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) yet according to them such an exercise is a preserve of the central government.

In the suit , Paul Ssembajjwe and Iddi Ouma attached Bornwell Kantande, the former UNHCR country representative Joel Boutrque who replaced Kantande,  as well as the Attorney General as the first, second and third respondents respectively.

They specifically accuse Kantande and Boutrque of registering refugees Uganda which they insist is a preserve of the government and thus a gross violation of the constitution of Uganda,

In their suit filed on April 16, 2018 though Ssemwanga Muwazi and Company advocates, the two contend that on December 20 2013 the minister of Relief and Disaster called upon the United Nations to handover the registration of refugees and asylum seekers to the government.

They say that despite of the communication from the minister, the United Nations refused to comply which prompted the Commissioner of refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister to write another reminder to the UNHCR.

“On September 22, 2017, the Government of Uganda entered into an agreement on the sharing of personal data of refugees and asylum-seekers with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees,” the suit partly reads.

Ssembajjwe and Ouma assert that on September 25, 2017, a concept note which was also emphasizing the need to implement the above agreement, was developed and consequently signed.

According to them, the signed agreement aimed at among other things regulating the transfer of personal data of refugees and asylum seekers, generated by the government through registration and refugee status determination procedure to UNHCR residing in Uganda.


“On February14, 2018, the government of Uganda signed a project partnership agreement which clearly stipulated that the duty to register refugees and asylum seekers was a preserve of the government of Uganda and not the first (Kantande) and second respondents (Boutrque),” they say.

On March 1, 2018 they say that UNHCR published on its website alleging that they had been requested by the Prime Minister of Uganda for the biometric verification of refugees.

“That by the UNHCR registering new arrivals and adding new born babie who are not yet in the Ugandan system is in the breach of the said contract,” they say, adding that by the UNHCR separating and merging of families activation of closed cases those in Oruchinga settlement, has caused families to each get a new member, a new household number, case number and different unique number from that issued by government of Uganda.

Consequently, they say that at trial they will contend that because the UNCHR did not work under the agreed terms of the agreement, it has registered new babies into the refugee system and yet they are not reflected in the system of the central government.

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