UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the Office of the Prime Minster (OPM) and partner agencies today launched a communication system for refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda. The two-way communication system will be piloted in Nakivale and Kiryandongo settlements first before eventually rolling out to all refugee settlements in Uganda by the end of the year.
The new inter-agency Feedback, Referral and Resolution Mechanism (FRRM) will augment the existing information sharing system in refugee settlements and provide safe, accessible and reliable communication channels to refugees and asylum seekers.
The FRRM will include for the first time in Uganda, the establishment of a centralised call centre with an inter-agency toll-free countrywide helpline as one of its essential elements. This will allow refugees to report urgent protection and assistance-related problems, receive guidance on queries that they raise, lodge complaints about sensitive incidents or obtain general information and advice.
The calls will be answered in real time and the complaints will be transferred to relevant agencies for resolution, while ensuring confidentiality of the information received through the helpline.
The system will also enable UNHCR, the Government of Uganda (GoU) and humanitarian partners to effectively manage feedback, inquiries and complaints received from refugees and asylum seekers and provide timely responses to their concerns.
The FRRM currently comprises of a number of channels, including the toll-free helpline and already existing mechanisms to receive feedback from refugees such as protection desks, suggestion/complaint boxes, community structures and face-to-face communication with refugees.
By maintaining a range of mechanisms, UNHCR, GoU and partner agencies aim to enhance the options available to refugees to choose the channel of their choice to report any concerns they may have depending on their preference, personal situation and the nature of the issue.
“The ever increasing number of refugees demands for new approaches of reaching out to them and addressing the problems they encounter on a daily basis,” said Joel Boutroue, the UNHCR Representative in Uganda.
“At UNHCR, we work hard to bring in innovative approaches to improve protection and the delivery of assistance in an efficient and timely manner.”
Mr. Boutroue added that the FRRM will give refugees the opportunity to make their voices heard and quell the storm of misinformation that often lands them in the wrong hands. He further added that setting up FRRM is a step in the right direction at a time when all partners in the refugee response need a wider range of tools to increase two-way communication with refugees.
“Refugees and asylum seekers need critical information in real time. They actively seek updates and advice, but often get a range of misinformation on social media. Setting up a call centre for refugees will immediately address some of these issues,” he added.
The call centre will initially receive calls from Kiryandongo and Nakivale for at least one month before it is expanded to all refugee settlements in 11 districts and Kampala before the end of the year.