Refugees-running-awayA total of 1,838 Rwandans are seeking asylum in Uganda, according to latest refugee statistics issued by the department of refugees in the office of the prime minister.

The asylum seekers include all Rwandans who fled their country between 1998 and June 30 2013 for various reasons including alleged political persecution and repression, and land conflicts.

However, more than half of them especially those below 11 years of age were born in Uganda.

According to a source in the office of the prime minister, a considerable number of the asylum seekers are former refugees who had earlier voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda but could not settle due to socio-political issues.

Findings of a 2010 research done by the Refugee Law Project (RLP) and the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) done at Nakivale settlement reveals that While the 1994 genocide and its immediate aftermath might have been the original cause of flight for many, ongoing political repression in Rwanda is not only preventing many refugees from returning, but is generating new refugees.

“Most of those interviewed in fact saw themselves not as war refugees but as victims of a war on individuals by a repressive government. Many had only recently fled into exile although often for the second or third time,” says the report.

Of the asylum seekers, 1, 325 are children while the rest are adults (more than 18 years old). There are 890 females and 948 males.

The asylum seekers are currently located in several areas of the country including Kampala, and settlements such as Kyaka II, Kyangwali, Nakivale and Oruchinga. Kampala hosts the highest number at 629 while Oruchinga is home to only two of the asylum seekers.

Announcing the number of Rwandan asylum seekers during a recent press conference, Hillary Onek, the minister of Refugees disclosed that Uganda is currently hosting 15,000 Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Uganda, Mohammed Adar commends Uganda for continuously hosting the refugees and seriously taking its international commitment to provide protection to refugees.

“The UNHCR will stand with you through this noble endeavor,” Adar tells Uganda.

However, the Rwandan minister of disaster management and refugee affairs Seraphine Mukantabana asserts that all Rwandans should return home and contribute to the development of their country.

Nonetheless the aforementioned report titled, “A Dangerous Impasse: Rwandan Refugees in Uganda,” states that the absence of open conflict is not an adequate benchmark against which to promote return.

It notes that return must be considered in terms of political openness and factors such as good governance (however that might be defined) and effective systems of justice, mechanisms that are increasingly being promoted within the ambit of transitional justice.

“These are more reliable indicators that it is not only safe to return home, but that return will be a genuinely durable solution.

Successful repatriation is not about stepping over a border: it is a long term process of negotiated access to human rights protection and is strengthened by addressing threats to post-conflict recovery and reconstruction,” reiterates the report.

The fate of the 1,838 asylum seekers rests in the hands of the Refugee Eligibility Committee (REC) that can either accept or decline their request for refuge.