IOM Uganda evacuates 456 stranded Congolese


April 07, 2018

PRESS RELEASE  

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has evacuated hundreds of Congolese refugees/asylum seekers stranded at isolated landing sites in western Uganda.

The movement started on Monday March 26, with 60 vulnerable refugees/asylum seekers moved to safety.  By the close of 2 April, at least 456 Congolese had been transported by IOM-hired boats from Senjojo, Sengarawi, Kitebire, and Bususa landing sites in Hoima district. They were taken to Nsonga, another landing site in Hoima, from where they were transferred by buses by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to Kagoma reception centre in Kyangwali refugee settlement.

 

This relocation is part of the IOM Uganda project funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), in response to the influx of Congolese refugees in western Uganda.

 

Speaking shortly after the first batch of refugees arrived at Nsonga, the IOM Uganda Chief of Mission, Mr Ali Abdi, acknowledged that the need was immense, but added that IOM would be trying to mobilize more funding to move more vulnerable refugees to where they can get emergency services. Mr Abdi handed over the first batch of 100 life jackets (out of the expected 400) to the Marine Police, which took charge of escort, security and safety of the refugees during the relocation. The Marine Police was supported by two IOM Search and Rescue and Protection experts. IOM will further support the Marine Police with 7 VHF radios as well as training.

 

According to Mr Peter Nzabanita, the IOM Uganda officer coordinating the response in Hoima, an assessment early last month found that there were more than 2,500 refugees at small landing sites like Senjojo and Sengarawi.  Nzabanita says that unlike larger landing sites like Nsonga or Sebagoro (both on Lake Albert), these small villages cannot be accessed by motorable roads, and are not served by relief agencies.  

 

Hence IOM, working with the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR and the Marine Police, hired three boats to add to the one owned by the MPF to move the most vulnerable refugees.

At the beginning of March, IOM supported the Government to assess the level and nature of refugee needs at these isolated sites. These small landing sites have been sharing their food and other supplies and facilities with the newly arrived migrants, increasing the level of desperation. At the same time, there is a growing risk of water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases such as cholera.

“IOM had to hire boats to move the most vulnerable among the refugees; but every effort has been made to ensure we do not split families,” Nzabanita said.

 

According to UNHCR, at least 67,003 Congolese have fled to Uganda from 1 January 2018 to 28 March 2018, escaping ethnic clashes in their country. 

 

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For more information, please contact Richard M. Kavuma, IOM Uganda, Tel: +256 312 263 210; 0700 646 403; 0772 709 917; Email: rmkavuma@iom.int