YUMBE. The office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has announced that the space that was created for asylum seekers due to a recent conflict in South Sudan has been closed.

This after reports that the reported numbers were inflated and numbers obtained on ground were far less than what was reported.

A group of asylum seekers gathered at the Uganda-South Sudan border in Kerwa Sub County were a week ago relocated to the then Goboro institutional quarantine centre awaiting their resettlement.

However, when the asylum seekers were at Kerwa collection point, the number was inflated to be over 1000 but when the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) intervened to relocate them to Goboro, about 150 of them were only found causing suspicion.

Mr Christopher Angualia, the assistant settlement commandant said at the time when they visited Kerwa sub county, there were many asylum seekers cooking outside in the rain with over 400 children.

He said the OPM volunteers and the Uganda refugee and disaster management council (URDMC) officials at Kerwa briefed them that there were 1400 asylum seekers and they were given the list.

"We were at first satisfied with the information given but on the contrary when transport means was organized to relocate them to Goboro institutional quarantine centre, only about 150 were found” he said.

“When we inquired from our colleagues why the number dropped, they said some of the asylum seekers after staying for about two weeks without any support, they decided to go back while others went to their relatives," Angualia added.

He said the OPM office had been alerted and that a repeat of the crisis that led to an audit in the refugee numbers in the country should not repeat itself and the space for asylum seekers had therefore been closed.

In 2018, OPM and UNHCR were entangled in a scandal in which refugee numbers were inflated, an audit was later instigated to ascertain the correct figures.

Dr Orkhan Nasibov, the head of UNHCR Yumbe sub-office said leaving the big number to stay in Kerwa would have been a disaster, something that prompted them to intervene.

"We got information that there were more than 1000 asylum seekers staying at the border. At one moment, a representative called the minister of disaster and we agreed that the 1000 people would be a disaster and we had to do something to move them somewhere," he said.

However, he said despite instructions to the group to gather near a school or church ready for pick-up in the morning, most of the people disappeared.

Mr Moses Olang, the district police commander Yumbe said the challenge of people deceiving authorities has been persistent in the area.

"We ever face challenges from the asylum seekers because of not telling the truth about them. In Kerwa, there are people who say they are from South Sudan but they live in Uganda, when we go to them, they say they are at home but when it comes to assistance, they claim they are from South Sudan". The DPC said.

Mr Ashraf Ajobe, the acting resident district commissioner (RDC) said he doubts the true status of the asylum seekers because the conflict in South Sudan ended and there is no more fighting.

"The conflict in South Sudan was like 2-3 days and it ended. Since then there has been no fighting in South Sudan, so nobody should claim that he/she is running at this time because of conflict," he said.

 

By press time, UNHCR was still in a plan of resettling the asylum seekers who were at Goboro institutional quarantine centre, the leaders in Yumbe district have said they still have enough land to accommodate more refugees.