By Robert Muhereza & Leonard Mbishinzimana
Kisoro district security team has flashed out about 22,000 Congolese asylum seekers that have been illegally staying in the Ugandan border communities with the Democratic Republic of Congo as some of them opted to return back to their home country while others accepted to be relocated to the Nyakabande refugee camp in Kisoro district.
The ongoing security operation that started on September 2 is being chaired by the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Hajji Shafiq Ssekandi who said that about 3,000 asylum seekers who are still illegally camping in the border communities are not only a security threat to the Ugandan local residents but a health risk since they were not screened for Ebola, Covid 19 and any other illness before they crossed into the country.
Thousands of Congolese asylum seekers have been illegally staying in the Ugandan border sub-counties in Kisoro district that include, Bunagana, Busanza, Rukundo, Muramba, Nyabwishenya,Mupaka and Nyarubuye.
“All the Congolese that accept to return back home are allowed to go through Buzanza border post with Uganda which is manned by the Congolese government officials the fact that Bunagana border post which is the immediate border post was captured by the M23 rebels on June 13 till to date. During our operation 7,047 Congolese asylum seekers accepted to be relocated to Nyakabande refugee transit camp while about 15,992 opted to return back home. This operation shall continue until all the Congolese illegal asylum seekers are completely removed in the border communities,” Hajji Ssekandi said while addressed the press on Monday evening.
He added that the cumulative number of asylum seekers manually registered since March this year when fighting erupted between the M23 and the Congolese government was 51,160 individuals of 26,121 households as of Monday this week.
“Some of the Congolese refugees that were earlier relocated to the settlement camps at Rwamwanja and Kyaaka in western Uganda have started returning back claiming that they wanted to be accommodated at the newly created Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) of Rwaasa in Rutshuru area of the North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo where they claim that life is far better compared to being in Uganda. On Monday we received about 133 refugees of this nature and we handed them over to the Congolese authorities at Busanza border for further management,” Hajji Ssekandi said.
Some of the Congolese refugees returning home that included Mr Deo Semahoro, Ms Annete Mwiiza and Mr Alfonse Sebagabo said that living in the border communities was giving them a chance to briefly return back home and attend to their gardens.
“We could not accept being relocated to either the refugee transit camp or the settlement camps in Uganda because we wanted to keep near the border to attend to our crop gardens. We are returning back home now that the Ugandan security says that they do not want us to remain here,” Mr Alfose Sebagabo said.
The commandant at the Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro district under the office of the Prime Minister, Mr. Daniel Kisaamo said that all places that have been occupied by the Congolese asylum seekers in the border communities are immediately fumigated after their departure adding that there is still enough space at his facility for the willing asylum seekers.
“We still have enough food and accommodation facilities for more asylum seekers besides providing them with health care. Since March to date, we have screened over 40,000 Congolese refugees for Covid 19 of which only 663 tested positive although only two are still in the isolation center because the rest got healed,” Mr. Kisaamo said.