By Simon Abaho
The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek has said the first batch of Afghan refugees will arrive in Uganda tomorrow, Sunday.
“The first Afghan asylum seekers will be arriving in Uganda tomorrow. They will be about 140. Subsequently, the next flight will follow,” Onek said on Saturday while appearing on the Nxt Big Talk on Nxt Radio.
“The refugees that come in are mostly women and children. UN supports the government in providing health and educational services. We are able to improve the quality of those who come in.”
The minister however explained that contrary to reports, the Afghan refugees will not stay in Uganda forever but rather a limited time as they transit to the US.
He added that the group will not stay in refugee camps but rather in hotels.
“Uganda will be a transit point for Afghan refugees. We shall process them before they are flown into the US. These are not refugees and will not be in refugee settlements. They will be accommodated at most of the Entebbe hotels.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this week said the decision to host the refugees follows a request by US government that Uganda gladly welcomed.
“Upon receipt of the request from the government of the United States for assistance towards hosting some of the affected persons and because of Uganda’s long-standing history and tradition of hosting refugees and other persons in need, President Museveni expressed Uganda’s readiness to provide assistance,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday afternoon.
Whereas according to the ministry of relief and disaster preparedness, the first batch of 500 Afghan refugees was supposed to arrive on Monday, August 16, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odongo on Thursday told the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that no decision had yet been made to host the group in Uganda.
“No decision has been made, whether they will come or not. It’s a suggestion, a proposal; discussions are going on…no substantive decision has been made,”Odongo said.
Uncertainty grew in Afghanistan after the Taliban Islamic group captured power they had lost 20 years ago after US troops overthrew the then government lead by Mullah Omar that was accused of hosting Al Quaeda terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.
According to government, the Afghan refugee stay here will be catered for by the US government.
Uganda is currently home to over 1.5 million refugees from mostly neighbouring countries including South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo who are running away from conflicts in their home countries.
The East African country which has been ranked on several occasions for having some of the most welcoming people in the world is second to Turkey(3.7 million) in hosting the largest number of refugees whereas on the African continent, Uganda leads.
President Museveni has on several occasions reiterated that Uganda will never close its doors to any refugees considering that some of the Ugandans were in the past refugees in some countries.
He says that by welcoming refugees, Uganda is paying back the debt incurred when other countries hosted Ugandans during the turbulent times that the country went through before his NRM government captured power in 1986.
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