By Esther Namiirmu
On 16th January, we published a story online about Farhiya Mahamed and her family of ten camping outside UNHCR offices for four days seeking relocation to another country.
“All I want is for the UNHCR to cancel the letter of rejection they gave me, that way I can get another chance to live a better life,” said Farhiya Mahamed Ahmed, a 42-year-old mother.
Ahmed said that she and her children have spent four nights in the cold and "the office responsible for us has not offered us even a glass of water, we are just living on the mercy of passers-by." And on 17th January a photo of Farhiya and her children appeared in New Vision.
“I saw the photo of Ms. Farhiya in today’s paper. She is well known to UNHCR Nakivale where she has resided for quite a while now. The letter she showed you was issued by our Office there in response to her request for resettlement to a 3rd Country, “said Esther Kiragu of UNHCR.
Kiraggu noted that UNHCR does not decide who can go abroad on resettlement or not, rather it is resettlement countries that set the criteria and eventually decide who can or cannot be admitted to their countries.
“This is what our colleagues in Nakivale have been trying to explain to Ms. Farhiya but it obviously is not the news she wants to hear as she would rather be resettled,” she added.
Kiragu says that Farhiya decided to come to Kampala to pursue her case here, unfortunately her file is a Nakivale-based file and has to be processed there where she resides.
“We eventually discussed and mutually agreed with Ms. Farhiya that we would support her to return to Nakivale for her to be assisted by our office there. She left yesterday and our colleagues are attending to her,” she added.
Kiragu claims that for the record, she was never beaten by any security guard here – it is completely against the code of conduct that we enforce very strictly.
The Sudanese man was assisted and he left. Time and again we do receive people at our gate and do help them as is appropriate.
We also have outreach offices in the Appollo Kagwa Road and InterAid Uganda is our implementing partner for urban refugees. I will share the information pamphlet with you when we meet.
For your information, Uganda has a very good asylum policy. Currently it is host to 246, 500 refugees located in 8 different refugee settlements around Uganda and in Kampala.
The majority are those in the settlements because those in settlements do get support while no material support is provided to refugees in urban centres.
In the settlements such as Nakivale where Ms. Farhiya resides, they have fairly decent shelter, schools, health centres, food and non-food items, water, security, along with other basic services, and all of it free of charge but maintained by UNHCR through the support of the international community.
For Farhiya, Nakivale is good so that her children can continue with their studies as well as benefit from this assistance.
At the moment we are receiving an influx from South Sudan and I am sure you know about all that. We are also receiving Congolese refugees in Mbarara at the border with DRC.
UNHCR responds on refugees’ camping at their offices