200 000 refugees were registered with UNHCR in 2013 but the real figure may be higher. The number of urban refugees in Kampala is undoubtedly increasing, as evidenced by the 31 000 new registration made in May 14 by the government.
According to the Women’s refugees Commission, the urban refugee community of Kampala is divided into 2 wealth groups: “vulnerable households” (who can not meet their basic needs) and “struggling households” (who can meet their basic needs but can not face emergency or unpredicted expenses).
Refugees arriving in Kampala come:
- From rural areas of Uganda, were they lived in agricultural settlements for a while
- Directly from their country of origin
- Via transit countries such as Kenya
- 1,72 million inhabitants (Uganda Bureau of Statistic 2010)
- Annual growth rate of the city: 4,5 %, due in majority to rural-urban migration (Refugee Law Project)
- Very high poverty rates, with 60 % of the city population living in slums (Justice and Peace Centre 2011)
Refugees are scattered among the city-slums and tend to regroup according to their country of origin. Somalis mainly concentrate in the neighbourhood of Kisenyi while the Congolese community gathers in Katwe, Makindye and Masajja. Living conditions are often squalid. Asylum seekers also stay in the street at the Old Kampala Police Station, a congested area with security issue.
- Access to health: according to InterAid, health service providers have a negative and discriminatory attitudes towards refugees and often charge them more than the real cost of medication
- Access to education: government schools in Kampala charge fees. More than 50% of children in age of going to school are not registered in any school (UN data, 2010)
- Persecution: Due to the role Uganda played in the DRC long standing conflict and in Rwanda , many asylum seekers and refugees are afraid of the Ugandan authorities.
- Xenophobia against refugees, particularly Somalis
1951 Convention: signatory
1967 Protocol: signatory
1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa: signatory
1960 Ugandan control of alien refugees act : required all refugees to reside in settlements (section 8)
2006 Ugandan refugee act: allows refugees to choose to settle in Kampala, or elsewhere
NB: Scan uploaded from the Refugee Law Project’s website
Country asylum policy
From 1960 to 2006, refugees had no option but to live in settlements located in rural areas. Refugees were allocated plots for agricultural activities (Refugee Law Project, 2005). They had to obtain permission to leave the camp settlements and only few refugees were allowed to live in urban settings (those in need of healthcare, with security concern, pending resettlement or with proven self sufficiency). Those who did not fit with these restrictions were left without assistance. Since 2006, the government has been allowing a very small number of refugees to settle in urban settings.
M. Macchiavello, Livelihoods strategies of urban refugees in Kampala, Forced Migration Review n 20, 2011
Refugee Law Project, A drop in the Ocean, Assistance and protection for forced migrants in Kampala, 2005
Human Rights Watch, Hidden in Plain View – Refugees living without protection in Nairobi and Kampala, 2002
J. Bernstein and M. Chrispus Okello, To be or not to be: urban refugees in Kampala, Refuge, volume 24, n°1, 2007
H. Refstie, C. Dolan and M. Chrispus Okello, Urban IDPs in Uganda – victims of institutionnal convenience, Forced Migration Review 34