Refugees seek government intervention in obtaining loans

Mr Marc Mbeke, a refugee from Congo during the interaction with Ngabo Youth Friendly Services Initiative in collaboration with Plan International in Kampala on June 21, 2024. PHOTO/SYLIVIA KATUSHABE

What you need to know:

  • Mr Mbeke emphasized that refugees engage in business activities, and if supported in obtaining loans, they could significantly contribute to the local economy and generate job opportunities for the youth.

Refugees in Kampala have urged the government to expand economic empowerment programs such as microfinance to urban refugees  to enable them to easily acquire loans to enhance their livelihoods.

Mr Marc Mbeke, a refugee from Congo said unlike refugees in settlements who receive some services, urban refugees are self-reliant and require economic empowerment to sustain their lives.

"We would like to feel at home, but there are many services inaccessible to us. When we seek loans from financial institutions, we are often denied due to our refugee status and directed to refugee organizations, where aid is insufficient," Mr Mbeke said.

Mr Mbeke emphasized that refugees engage in business activities, and if supported in obtaining loans, they could significantly contribute to the local economy and generate job opportunities for the youth.

During their interaction with Ngabo Youth Friendly Services Initiative in collaboration with Plan International in Kampala on June 2, Mr Mbeke also highlighted the continued segregation of refugees within communities.

On June 20, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorated World Refugee Day under the theme of Solidarity with Refugees.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of December 2023, Uganda was hosting over 1.6 million refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and South Sudan.

In 2023, Uganda received 98,232 new arrivals, with 50.7 percent entering through border entry points, primarily in Kisoro, Lokung, and Bundibugyo, and 49.3 percent are in Kampala.

The ongoing conflict in Sudan has led to 12,900 new arrivals from Sudan since January 2023, with 86 percent arriving in Kampala and 14 percent in settlements.

Ms Sadiya Abdivabhman, a refugee from Somalia, urged the government to lift restrictions on registering Somali refugees.

Ms Abdivabhman highlighted the challenges faced in accessing basic necessities due to lack of documentation in their areas of residence, as they are living in Uganda without legal status, resulting in some being detained.

"We were informed that many refugees arriving here are already registered in Kenya, but there are others coming directly from Somalia who have never been refugees and remain unregistered, “Ms. Abdivabhman stated.

Mr Sadat Ziwa Zaaga, the director of Ngabo Youth Friendly Services Initiative, emphasized the need for stakeholders to invest in comprehensive economic empowerment programs, encompassing microfinance, entrepreneurship training, and job placement services to enhance the livelihoods of urban refugees.

Mr Ziwa highlighted that removing regulatory barriers for refugee employment and business ownership could unleash their potential and contribute to the local economy.

He stressed that it is imperative to address access to health and education services for refugees, particularly focusing on urban refugees who rely on strained public systems.

“While refugees in settlements often have dedicated services, urban refugees rely on overstretched public systems. Innovative approaches are needed to ensure that urban refugees can access these vital services without overwhelming local capacities,” Mr Ziwa said.