By Fred Kiva
Five hundred Eritrea and Sudanese refugees in Israel are to be relocated to Uganda, Government has said.
Addressing the Media at the Uganda Media Center on Friday, Musa Ecweru, the state Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees said, Israel had contacted Uganda on the possible relocation of the refugees and that the government is positive about the move.
“The state of Israel working with other refugee managing organizations has requested Uganda to allow about 500 refugees of Eritrean and Sudanese origin to be relocated to Uganda. I want to make it clear that the government and my Ministry are positively considering this request,” Ecweru said.
The Minister added that all those to be relocated will have to undergo a rigorous verification process to ascertain their status before they are granted asylum in Uganda. Although Ecweru did not give a timeframe on when these refugees will be relocated, he revealed that some will be resettled in settlement camps, while those that can live on their own will be supported by Government.
The Minister said Uganda had to give in to Israel’s request because the country has open door policy to refugees and the two countries enjoy fraternal relations.
“Uganda and the state of Israel have fraternal relations, Uganda said we have no objection, in any case we have an open door policy to refugee management and 500 refugees will not be too many given what we have already accepted from the neighbouring countries,” Ecweru explained.
Currently, Uganda has over 1.4million refugees spread out in the various refugee settlement camps. The refugees are mainly from Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Burundi and Eritrea. Minister Ecweru said bringing in Eritreans to Uganda will not be new since there are already about 30,000 Eritrean refugees in the country.
He revealed that government had been prompted to speak out on the issue because of what he described as social media fabrication that Uganda had been paid to host refugees from Israel.
“Already we have 1.4million refugees in Uganda and we have not been paid a cent, it’s us spending our limited resources to make them have a second home here, so there’s no payment attached to this, it’s purely humanitarian,” Ecweru emphasized.
The Minister declined to comment on whether the refugees are victims of the Israel forced relocation policy.
The Associated Press (AP) in January quoted the UN Refugee Agency expressing concern over Israel’s proposals to call on Eritreans and Sudanese refugees to accept relocation to African countries or face imprisonment. It noted that the Country’s “forced relocation policy” starting December 2013 had sent out about 4000 of the migrants to two African countries, reportedly Rwanda and Uganda.
However, Minister Ecweru denied claims that there are already refugees relocated from Israel to Uganda at the moment, adding that if there are those already here, they came in illegally.