By Steven Candia
A new law to boost the rights of refugees has been launched. The Refugees Act 2006, which replaces the Control of Alien Refugees Act 1960, has been hailed as one of the most progressive on refugees the world over.
The law, which was passed on March 26, 2006, was launched at the Uganda Museum as part of the activities to mark the World International Refugees Day commemorated on Saturday.
Presiding over the event, the Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi, said the launch symbolises Ugandaâ€™s liberal policy towards refugees.
â€œOur settlement policy ensures that refugees are given opportunity to fend for themselves by growing crops, attain food security and avail themselves other basic needs.â€
Disaster preparedness minister Tarsis Kabwegyere said Uganda would host a special summit on displacement of people in October.
The one-week summit, he explained, is expected to be attended by all heads of state from Africa, including leading personalities such as former South African President Nelson Mandela and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.
Outgoing UNHCR country representative Stefano Severe hailed the law as a milestone in the advancement of the rights of refugees.
The law, Severe said, defines refugees, is gender sensitive, lays down the procedures for determining refugees, their rights and obligations to the host country and how their status can cease.
â€œIn drawing this legislation, the draftsmen have accorded the asylum regime a good law, â€
Severe said Uganda has 140,271 refugees, adding that since 2006, some 110,000 refugees had been voluntarily repatriated to Sudan and 3,132 have been resettled in other countries.
The Refugee Law Project director, Chris Dolan, cited the need to raise awareness about the law and change the publicâ€™s attitude towards refugees.
â€œThis process should begin without delay,â€ he said.