KAMPALA- Eng Hilary Onek, the Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, has said that at least 780 Pakistanis have been denied refugee status in Uganda on grounds that the two countries do not share a border.
Last year, according to Eng Onek, the first batch of 500 individuals applied for refugee status following the ongoing war in their country but Uganda insisted they should seek refugee from the nearby states.
“Some of these people come in the country pretending that they are refugees and then begin to trade, deny nationals opportunities and grow rich while exploiting the people here. Why can’t they go to other countries?” Mr Onek said.
He was addressing the media on the side-lines of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), conference of experts and ministers on jobs, livelihood and self-reliance for refugees, returnees and host communities at Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo on Monday.
He said there is a new group of 280 Pakistanis who came to seek refugee status but they have also been blocked.
Uganda’s official total number of refugees stands at 1.2 million according to the January 2019 figures from the Office of the Prime Minister.
The number has grown enormously in the past four years because of internal conflicts in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
Without specifying, Mr Onek said some people who came to Uganda as refugees from Asia in the 1970s have since become some of the richest people in the country.
“Some were selling sodas on the streets in early 1970s. Now they are among the richest people in the world. We shall not accept that, let them look somewhere else,” he said.
Ms Fathia Alwan, the IGAD Director of Social Development Division, said countries ought to be tolerant to their own nationals and stop internal conflicts as a method of reducing the number of refugees.
“We hope that we shall solve internal conflicts especially among IGAD member countries but we also encourage other countries to be hospitable,” Ms Alwan said.