REFUGEE STATUS; SOURCE OF WEALTH TO COUNTRIES HOSTING REFUGEES IN EAST AFRICA
Over years that constitute my age, I have lived as a refugee in a refugee camp. However it has been to my surprise that the host community takes this opportunity of having refugees in their country as a source of prestige. The graves that have occupied several acres of land in Kakuma refugee camp resulted from refugees that were shot by looters at night who were specifically from the host community. As a journalist who had worked in Kakuma, efforts to stop such practices ended in unnoticeable success.
Employment opportunities for refugees had been there but the interest of the host community was to have their hands in and struggled as much as they could to chop it. Refugees could remain with an unreasonable amount. This has so far made refugees feel inferior to their national counterparts. A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave his country due to persecution, war or violence. Purposely, one becomes a refugee to seek protection. On the other hand are asylum seekers who claim to be refugees yet their refugee status is not yet approved. Asylum seekers become refugees if their claim is proven.
While in Kenya I recall that a Kenyan was paid a round sum of 15, 000 kshs while a refugee with the same academic qualifications earned 3, 000 kshs per month. A Kenyan had allowances that a refugee employee could not have. I analyzed that the difference between these two employees is their status. One being a national while the latter is a refugee. They felt neglected and belittled. While these refugees travelled to other parts of Kenya, they were asked to support their documents. That made me view that in Kenya, refugees were sources of Livelihood to Kenyans.
My analysis didn’t end there. After the most recent tribal war in South Sudan, I had to run to Uganda for my dear life. I registered as a refugee which was genuine. Instead of sitting back, I had other needs that were not fulfilled by UNHCR. Job openings were abundant. I bothered myself to apply for one of them. The payment was ranging from 150, 000 ugx to 200, 000 ugx per month. The nationals carried home a sum of 700, 000 ugx and above. Food allowance, transport allowance and rental allowance all settled. I flashed back to my analysis in Kenya. I concluded that this is the tradition in East Africa. Refugees are brought in to:
- Create employment.
- To enrich nationals and.
- To increase the stress that has come with them.
The deal was to come to pass at the beginning of this year. This has already fallen on deaf ears. And all are working for single organizations but no increment yet. Some unfair refugees switch to asking for money from their fellow refugees who want swift services. Last year, UNHCR ceased to be the organization taking care of registration of new arrivals. This was after their work was taken up by OPM, the office of prime minister which also works for the welfare of refugees. UNHCR left with their computers and their database. They(OPM) came with their new computers and their new system. However, they did not perform well. Possibly some nationals from Acholi, Madi and other tribes in South Sudan that are also in Uganda might have doubled. Most of the refugees came even without knowing where they belonged, their leaders and so forth. Most of the refugees turned up in numbers to double registration which led to increase in the total number of refugees registered. This move had to call for a verification exercise which started on 4th April and is ongoing. As I spoke to some of the refugees, they revealed that most of the OPM officers took money for swift services which had never been happening when UNHCR ran registration in the camp.
Issues of "LESSER PAY" according to a reliable source arise from the office of prime minister who advise other organizations to lower payment which is against the international law. Article 17 of the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees doesn't allow such biased practices. And so do article 6 among other laws and articles on the rights of refugees. Whatever intention that has come with an organization has to be turned down so that three quarters of such money goes to nationals. Refugees suffer silently without voicing their views out to anyone. Are the refugees sources of wealth in any country they temporarily live in or seeking protection from all kinds of harm?
Sincerely, anyone can have mental illness for earning such a little amount. How will he divide it among his family members? Besides, the only high school in the camp is run by the community and the refugees have to pay school fees. UNHCR has devised efforts to sponsor children who have performed well in PLE(Primary leaving examination). Those that have nobody to sponsor them will not study for the school fees range from 150 000 and above that they can't afford. While in Kenya, I studied from primary school to secondary school in refugee schools. However, I failed to go to University because I had no money to proceed. I had to stay until 2011 when my sister was married. I had to go to University with that money and earned a diploma.
In Kiryandongo refugee settlement, the health centre is only one. It becomes too congested rendering some people to be reluctant to go for treatment due to long queues. Refugees are people who are tired of living. A refugee may decide to commit suicide only because he feels he has no future when he is looked down upon. Should we add salt to an injury? An anonymous refugee revealed to me today that he is tired of the management of this camp because in other camps, refugees are well treated. This is a dream he has that will not come to pass as he lives here in Kiryandongo. Most of the refugees who can read and write point fingers at the camp commandant who is commanding this camp. Uganda borders are impermeable to the penetration of refugees into Uganda. Those who cannot afford 100 US Dollar to cross the border remain in South Sudan suffering.