In the past two years, the population of immigrants in Kampala City and Wakiso District has experienced a significant surge, escalating from approximately 70,000 to the current figure of 121,499, as reported by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) on Thursday, November 09, 2023.
These immigrants, seeking refuge or asylum, have concentrated primarily in townships within Makindye and Rubaga divisions. Among them, 83,755 individuals possess official refugee status, while the remaining are awaiting the completion of asylum assessments.
Uganda’s progressive refugee policy, cited by the OPM spokesperson Mr Charles Odongtho, is considered a key factor attracting these individuals to the country. The Refugee Act of 2006 grants refugees equal treatment as Ugandan citizens, including the right to engage in various economic activities.
Despite the positive aspects of this influx, concerns have been raised about the impact on the demographics of major townships, particularly in Makindye and Rubaga divisions. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Okello Oryem acknowledges the challenges presented by refugees, emphasizing the need for effective control measures.
Local residents express discomfort as they observe a rise in suspected illegal immigrants, particularly in areas such as Kabalagala, Muyenga, and Kansanga. According to Mr Ismail Kinene, the Chairman of Kisementi Zone in Kabalagala, distinguishing between legal and illegal immigrants poses a challenge, as some engage in businesses traditionally operated by locals.
This sentiment is echoed by Chairman of Kampala City Traders Association, Mr Thaddeus Nagenda Musoke, who highlights complaints from locals about immigrants taking over small-scale businesses. However, the Refugee Act of 2006 contradicts this perspective by granting refugees access to employment opportunities.
Police reports for 2023 reveal an alarming statistic: at least 1,960 foreigners, some of whom are refugees, were involved in criminal activities. A significant portion of this number (738) faced issues with their stay in Uganda and were addressed by the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration (DCIC).
Acknowledging the rise in criminal incidents, Mr Muhammed Suleyman, President of the Ethiopian Association in Uganda, attributes the influx of immigrants from the Horn of Africa to regional conflicts. While some criminal incidents have been reported among these communities, Suleyman commends authorities for their efforts to maintain peace.
The spokesman for the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration (DCIC), Simon Mundeyi, reports an increase in illegal immigrants in Makindye and Rubaga divisions. He notes their involvement in nocturnal businesses and illicit jobs, emphasizing the need for regulation.
A year ago, DCIC officers arrested over 120 immigrants for illegal activities and presence in Uganda. This underscores the challenges faced by authorities in managing the growing immigrant population, reflected in the overcrowded DCIC cells on Jinja Road.