As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Uganda has been hailed as a model country in terms of accepting and treating refugees humanely.
At a time when anti-foreigner sentiments are on the rise across the world, Uganda has the highest number of refugees (1.24 million by April 2019) in Africa, which is also among the highest in the world. Most refugees in Uganda fled from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Burundi and Eritrea, among other countries.
But while many refugees feel at home here as they wait to return home, for others Uganda becomes a transit country, as they look to relocate mostly to the West.
This is where IOM Uganda comes in. We work with sister agency UNHCR, the Office of the Prime Minister, HIAS, the embassies of the refugee-accepting countries, plus a host of other partners on often action-packed and lengthy operations to move refugees to third countries.
Since resettlement was announced as one of the longterm solutions to the large caseload of Congolese refugees in Uganda in 2010, IOM has moved about 25,000 to the United States, Canada, Australia Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Ireland and other countries.
Most of the relocated refugees have come from settlements such as Nakivale in Isingiro district, Kyangwali in Hoima and Kyaka II in Kyegegwa.
IOM provides refugees accepted for resettlement to Australia, Canada and Norway 3-5 day of pre-departure cultural orientation, aimed at addressing their needs and those of host communities.
IOM provides assistance in organizing cultural orientation sessions for refugees accepted for resettlement to the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA. These programmes are run by the Dutch Central Agency for Asylum Seekers COA, Swedish Migration Board, and Church World Service (based in Nairobi). IOM supports the implementing agencies in all logistical and administrative arrangements.
Pre-Departure Logistics and Formalities
IOM staff arrange the pre-departure logistics and exit formalities for refugees accepted for resettlement. These include providing transport, venues, board and lodging for refugees due for medical screening and cultural orientation; assisting refugees to obtain exit permits; collecting and verifying travel documents and visas; booking domestic and international flights; and pre-departure, departure and arrival notifications. IOM also arranges travel from settlements to Kampala ahead of departure from Uganda. Finally, IOM transports the refugees to Entebbe airport on the day of departure, where IOM staff help the refugees to check in and accompany them until they board the planes.
In some cases, IOM Operations and/or Medical staff may escort particular refugees until they hand them over to IOM staff in the receiving country.