Two Ugandans have sued the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for ‘illegally’ registering refugees in Uganda.
UNHCR together with the Ugandan government last month launched a biometric refugee verification exercise for all refugees in the country.
However according to two Ugandans including Paul Ssembajjwe and Iddi Ouma,the actions by UNHCR of registering refugees in Uganda is a violation of the constitution because it is a mandate of the government.
“We seek a declaration by the High Court that government’s actions of leaving the registration, verification and refugee data storage systems in the hands of UNHCR is was negligent and prejudicial to state security,” says the two Ugandans in the petition to the High Court.
Describing the petition as being in the interest of the public, the two Ugandans say that registering and verifying refugees by the United Nations body contravenes the principles of natural justice and the right to fair hearing since the original intension of the re-verification exercise was to ascertain the exact number of persons of concern which is itself unlawful.
Officials recently said that by collecting fingerprints, scanning eyes, and recording information about refugees’ vulnerabilities, government and partners would be in a better position to ensure that only those who are deserving are protected and assisted.
The petitioners however claim that registering of new born babies who are not yet in Ugandan government refugee information system is itself taking away government’s function and mandate of of registration and control of data without any regulatory and mechanism and as such , the exercise is unlawful and a security threat to the government.
The petitioners argue that creating new individual unique numbers and new ration cards to replace the old ones by the Ugandan government is unlawful because it makes data generated difficult to compare as well as usurping government’s mandate to control the registration of people as provided for by the law.
They have requested for an order by the Ugandan High Court restraining UNHCR from carrying out the registration and verification exercise.
According to the petition, the Minister in charge of Relief and Disaster preparedness and refugees in December 2013 asked UNHCR to hand over registration of refuges and asylum seekers to government but the UN boy refused to comply.
“We seek a declaration that the agreement between Uganda and the United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees on sharing personal data of refugees and asylum seekers was breached during the ongoing registration and verification exercise,” they contend.