Results from the recent verification exercise by government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees have confirmed there were inflated figures in the number of refugees that the country hosts.
The Office of the Prime Minister was hit with a fresh scandal involving inflation of refugee numbers by creation of ghost refugees whose money was embezzled by officials from the refugee office of the OPM and UNHCR prompting a biometric verification exercise all over the refugee hosting areas.
On Thursday, the minister for Disaster Preparedness and refugees, Hilary Onek released what he termed as preliminary findings of the verification exercise to journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala.
‘The number of refugees and asylum-seekers registered by the Government as of the 1 March, 2018 was 1,444,856 individuals. By the end of the verification exercise 1,092,213 individuals have been verified as present representing 76% of the initial target,”Onek said.
“During the verification exercise, OPM continued to attend to the ongoing emergency and registered new arrivals in all settlements and at transit centres along the borders, using the new biometric registration system.”
He said that since March this year, 62139 new arrivals mainly from Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan were registered, bringing the active registered refugee population in Uganda to 1,154,352 individuals as of end of October 2018.
Over 350,000 refugees inflated
According to the minister, as of March 2018, it had been reported that Uganda was hosting 1,444,856 but the new verification number indicated there were 1,092,213 refugees.
This means the figure had been inflated to include 352,643 more refugees than were on the ground according to the results of the verification exercise.
However, there were 62139 new arrivals after March bringing the current total number of refugees in Uganda to 1,154,352 as of October.
What could have happened?
The Minister explained that the verification exercise tried to dig out the reasons behind the over 350,000 inflated number of refugees.
“Among those, 255,490 individuals were verified as inactive and closed because they were reported by their families to have returned to their countries of origin, others were identified to have initially registered more than once whereas others were reported dead,”Onek explained.
He added that the new verification exercise found out that there were individuals whose whereabouts are unknown as reported by family members whereas others were Ugandan nationals who had registered as refugees.
The verification exercise also found out that there were 55,812 refugees in Kampala a number which was less by 44,882 contrary to earlier figures.
The Ugandan minister applauded the new biometric system that he said would be able to capture refugees who would want to get enlisted as citizens and citizens who would want to register as refugees.
Onek said the bio data captured on the new refugee cards and National IDs for Ugandan citizens will put in a system to come in handy to fight the vice impersonation.
Joel Boutroue the new Representative for UNHCR in Uganda said the data got after the verification exercise would come in handy will give more assurance to donors so as to increase the amount of money given to manage refugees in Uganda.
He said the new verification system would help greatly in tracing and tracking people with special needs so as to be cared for efficiently.
“We have given two months grace period for those refugees who may have not availed themselves for the verification exercise to show up,”Boutroue said.
Onek said they are still trying to match the earlier reported figures with the new ones to find out what had gone wrong.
“We are still carrying out the verification exercise to find out what went wrong and in case of any foul play, the culprits will be held accountable,”Onek said.