2023 World Refugee Day Statement

THEME: HOPE AWAY FROM HOME – “A World Where Refugees are always Included”

 Every year, on June 20, the world comes together to commemorate World Refugee Day. A day designated by the United Nations to remember and honor refugees around the world. As we mark this important occasion, Refugee Law Project stands in solidarity with the millions of displaced individuals and families, particularly those who have sought refuge in Uganda from the Great Lakes region, including from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia and a few from beyond.

 Refugees are forced to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, persecution, or other circumstances that place their lives at risk, making them in need of international protection. Uganda, as a signatory to the 1969 OAU Convention on Refugees, the 1951 Convention on Refugees, and the Optional Protocol of 1967, has an international mandate to provide assistance to refugees within its borders. Furthermore, Uganda has signed the Global Compact on Refugees and will co-convene the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023.

 This year's theme for World Refugee Day, "Hope Away from Home: A World Where Refugees are Always Included," highlights the importance of ensuring that refugees find hope and inclusivity in their new surroundings. Refugee Law Project, with its 13 offices across Uganda, is committed to upholding this vision by providing vital services such as legal aid, medical assistance, counseling, capacity building, English classes, and advocacy for the rights of refugees. Notably, 30% of our staff members are refugees themselves, bringing their invaluable firsthand experiences, skills and expertise, and perspectives to our work.

 Meaningful refugee participation is essential in providing effective humanitarian support and international protection. It is crucial that refugees have a seat at the table where decisions about their welfare and project interventions are made, and that they are empowered to create spaces of their own. Refugee Law Project actively collaborates with refugee community leaders, establishing support groups to address refugee issues. Additionally, refugees serve as paralegals, acting as first responders to legal challenges within their communities. Moreover, 70% of our English for Adult class facilitators are refugees. Through basic video advocacy training, refugees have been equipped to amplify the issues faced by their communities. Indeed, it is imperative to further support refugees-led initiatives. The resounding message for refugee participation is "Nothing about us without us and do not leave us behind"

 To ensure the successful implementation of projects and decisions regarding refugee welfare, it is crucial to increase the representation and visibility of refugees in these processes. By actively involving refugees, we can influence policies and programs that better suit and address their needs. Currently, projects are often developed without proper and meaningful consultation with refugees, disregarding their diverse cultures, languages and aspirations. The Global Refugee Forum offers a unique opportunity for refugees to set agenda and engage in dialogues about their rights and needs. Historically, the exclusion of refugees from agenda setting and discussions on migration and policies that impact their lives and futures has resulted in the failure of many projects. As Refugee Law Project, we call upon the UNHCR, the Government of Uganda, and civil society organizations to commit to a minimum of 30% meaningful refugee participation in decision-making and project design and implementation to lift up their voices at the relevant fora

 On this World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm our collective commitment to creating a world where refugees are not merely recipients of aid but active contributors who shape their own destinies. It is only through inclusive and empowering practices that we can build a brighter inclusive future for all, where hope thrives, even away from home.

Access to the digital environment for children: Building safer and inclusive digital spaces for refugee children with special needs and disability.

Refugee Law Project (RLP) joins the rest of the world to commemorate the Day of the African Child (DAC) 2023 under the theme ‘Protecting and Promoting Children’s Rights in the Digital Era. The DAC was instituted in 1991 in honor of the 1976 student uprising in Soweto and serves as a platform for recognizing and addressing the challenges faced by children in Africa. It calls for reflection, commitment and action towards upholding the rights of children across the continent. As we commemorate this day, RLP celebrates all children especially those in the most vulnerable situations including but not limited to; children living with disabilities and other disabling conditions, refugee children, unaccompanied and separated minors for the effort they are making to enjoy and promote their rights and the rights of others as they exercise their child appropriate responsibilities.

World Refugee Day June 20 2022

Global Theme: Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety. Every 20 June, the world celebrates World Refugee Day to honor refugees worldwide for their strength and resilience. This year, the commemoration focuses on the right to seek safety. Every person has the right to seek safety – whoever they are – wherever they come from and wherever they are forced to flee. Uganda remains a generous country with a long history of over 60 years of hosting refugees. It currently hosts over 1.5 million refugees, making it a top African refugee-hosting country and among the top five countries worldwide. Every migrant is entitled to safe and dignified treatment like any other human being as they seek asylum. Today, world leaders and their nations have been reminded not to discriminate against migrants at borders. Borders should remain open to all people forced to flee their homes besides seeking asylum is a human right. The World Refugee Day campaign presents a reminder of the big challenges refugees face globally as they seek safety. Ensuring refugee safety is a pressing issue in refugee protection. More people are on the move than ever due to wars, climate change, etc. Every minute, 30 individuals around the globe are displaced. There is growing xenophobia, closure of borders and fear of asylum seekers in many countries, which has led to a tendency not to see refugees as victims of war but as perpetrators of insecurity. This kind of aggression has interception measures and higher barriers to indiscriminate detention, threatening refugee safety. Today, Uganda hosts refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea. With the ongoing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda has opened its borders to over 25,000 new arrivals through the Bunagana border. Through the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR and humanitarian partners, the government of Uganda manages transit centers for asylum seekers along the Uganda/the Democratic Republic of Congo border and is responding to the emergency.  Despite struggling to sustain the refugee operations, Uganda continues to share its little resources with refugees. During the launch of the three-year Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan 2022/2025 (UCRRP) in Kampala, the Minister of Disaster Preparedness in the Office of Prime Minister revealed that Uganda needs 1.5 trillion annually to cater for refugees living in the country. Most people on the move are from poor countries; these countries cannot support Uganda to sustain the refugees. The host communities that welcome refugees are often struggling to survive themselves. However, the government of Uganda continues to establish safe access to all people forced to flee and integrate them within the settlements in the refugee-hosting districts. While Uganda continues to receive refugees and enable them to access the available services through government institutions like any other Ugandan, especially those services within their areas of residence or settlement, more must be done to support Uganda’s comprehensive policy on refugees. In 2018, world leaders adopted a new global compact at the United Nations: one on refugees and one on migration. Whereas the compact emphasized that refugees should be helped and treated with respect at every stage of migration, hosting countries are incapacitated to ensure refugees live dignified lives due to challenges in accessing the basic needs like food, shelter, medical care etc. The vulnerability of refugees is magnified when they have limited resources like food, medical care, financial resources, shelter for their families, poverty, security, fuel wood, access to safe, clean water, and their communities are major issues they need. Refugees within settlements face physical security challenges, and some live in constant fear due to inadequate protection within the settlements; this calls for amendment of the laws to better protect the refugees. There have been cases of kidnapping of refugees, trafficking of refugees, and disappearance of refugees. The Refugee Law Project’s 2001 paper on ‘Refugees and the Security Situation in Adjumani highlighted critical security threats refugees face. Victims of several war-related violence complain of meeting perpetrators within the settlements, and this causes people to live in constant fear within the settlement. More reinforcement should be doubled to address such issues that specific categories of migrants are appropriately settled for the safety and peace of all migrants. Notably, reported cases are properly investigated, and actions are taken. The government should consider high-profile asylum seekers and ex-combatants to help overcome their fears and protection needs. Break-down in the family network causes trauma and fear. This calls for prioritising family reunification to enhance the safety of individuals and their families. The family is considered to be the first unit for safety.  Family reunification needs to prioritise separated families and facilitate reunions with known family members within the settlements.  The national theme focuses on the right to seek safety, protection and conservation of the environment. UNHCR estimates that 20-25 million trees are cut down annually in and around refugee settlements. The urgent need for cooking fuel drives 90% of this deforestation. The refugees within settlements mostly are challenged with access to fuel.  The resulting environmental problems threaten safe living conditions and livelihoods for refugees. This calls for empowering refugees and host communities on environmental protection and conservation measures. We appeal for more interventions and funding for reforestation and the promotion of clean cooking energy programs to conserve the environment and support vulnerable refugee situations. This will help revert the degradation of the environment in refugee-hosting districts. UNHCR reports that as the wood collection perimeter widens with deforestation, women and children travel long distances to collect wood, putting them at increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Environmental degradation also heightens the risk of conflict between refugees and hosts. In addition, schools consume a lot of fuel wood, and alternative energy sources need to be established. The human waste within schools needs to be utilised to produce clean energy for fuel use by schools. Access to food within refugee families and reduced food and cash ratio threaten refugees' safety. World Health Organization states that food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. A lack of safe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, which overburdens public health services, disrupts social and economic progress and detracts from the quality of life.  The reductions by World Food Program on refugee food ratio and cash ratio coupled with the low income, unemployment, and poverty worsen the refugee situation at individual, family and community levels. The refugees should be supported with land and other alternative mechanisms for food production such that food security can be enhanced. Refugees need to be empowered with information such that they are not vulnerable and exploited as they seek alternatives for food production.   What is RLP’s position on refugees and migrants about safety?  Refugee Law Project programmes promote the safety and protection of refugees within Uganda. We have championed the promotion of understanding of refugee rights, their obligations and protection in Uganda. Basically, to broaden the understanding of refugee issues, safety and peaceful co-existence of the refugees with the host. We advocate for respect for the rights of refugees and other categories of migrants and non-discrimination against migrants.

International Human Rights Day 2022

Dignity ,Freedom And Justice For All December 10th, 2022 marks the 75th commemoration of the celebrated Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), being the day the milestone document was brought to life. Human Rights  are universal, meaning that they ordinarily should be applied to and enjoyed by all human beings without discrimination. Decades since 1948, there has been much progress in human rights observance and protection. However, just like any pursuit, nations which have since committed to uphold it aren’t without their shortcomings in the ever continuing fight to ensure that all human beings enjoy their rights without discrimination world over. Nations have since 1948 continued to struggle with issues of resource, cultural settings, beliefs and practices among other challenges. The UDHR has nevertheless over the past 75 years continued to be the yardstick by which many nations around the globe have shaped their own rights charters and the standard to which the entire world has been called to uphold. It has served as a foundation for a plethora of many rights old and new in a bid to protect humanity especially vulnerable groups that would otherwise undergo more inhumane suffering in the absence of special protections.   This year’s theme focuses on “Dignity, Freedom and Justice for all” and calls upon everyone to “Stand Up for Human Rights”. The UDHR in its preamble recognizes that freedom, justice and peace cannot stand without the foundation of equality and dignity among all human beings. As long as inequality still exists, there shall always be limitations to freedoms and barriers to justice which curtail peaceful co-existence between human beings. Currently, the world at large is still grappling with the social, political and economic impact that Covid-19 pandemic left in its wake. Its negative implications still plague many nations across the globe including Uganda. At its height, the pandemic exposed glaring gaps in the nation’s ability to provide necessary sustainable healthcare, food support and fiscal stimulus to struggling persons and bodies. The economy in turn receded as a result of several lockdowns, many people losing livelihoods and others, lives. More to that, the pandemic exposed human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrests, long detentions and further showed the indignity that poverty, discrimination and racism cause. The world looked to 2021 and 2022 to open a new chapter of recovery in all affected spheres of life. However, 2022 has since dealt the world the Ukraine-Russia armed conflict that has on its own had a ripple effect that has caused much world tension and further prompted questions on freedoms, justice and dignity of persons especially forced migrants as the world has witnessed. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has noted the wide range of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity that have caused suffering and devastation with thousands of civilians killed and injured among whom are many children. Many actions during this armed conflict have set the international community back many years in the protection of rights and freedoms of individuals in the mass killings and torture that has been reported among other violations. According to UNHCR, the conflict has seen 7.8 million Ukrainian refugees scattered across Europe and another nearly 13 million internally displaced persons. This has created a breeding ground for even more human rights abuses especially against women, children, persons living with disabilities and the elderly. The same conflict goes further to affect the right to work, health, education, shelter and freedom of movement which are difficult to protect in the current context. To add, the same exodus has exposed discrimination with dehumanizing treatment being meted out against people from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East in effect redefining “human” and thereby deepening divisions among nations even in the face of armed conflict. Many people of “other” descent were reported to be barred from accessing humanitarian assistance and asylum on the basis of race and nationality in the presence of opportunities that were extended to other nationals. But more to that, the conflict has caused a shift in resource allocation from other long-standing humanitarian response initiatives towards the conflict which has been felt as far as refugees in Uganda with the ever reducing World Food Program’s food and cash ratios as well as the closure of several NGOs for lack of funding over the year due to a geographical shift in donor priorities. The fact that world economists are warning of a coming financial recession much like or worse than the 2008 financial crisis only spreads more fear regarding the welfare and livelihoods of vulnerable persons who strongly rely on external support and worries only rise regarding whether these vulnerable groups shall be able to live dignified lives should global economies crash further having an effect on livelihoods, healthcare, education, food etc. which in turn shall affect their rights to work, access healthcare and the rights of children which undermines the response of organizations and nations whose goal it is to ensure that vulnerable groups grow into self-resilience from national and global shocks. The world has also seen a wide debate on the freedom of expression captured under Article 19 of the UDHR which grants persons the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The debate has soared both nationally and internationally with the censure of many global leaders in politics, business, education and religion in the quarters of the world’s Third and Fourth Industrial Revolutions which involve the development of Information Technology and the Internet of Things. Uganda has seen the enactment of the Computer Misuse (Amendment) Act, 2022 that many argue curtails online freedom of expression and have come against the law for violations against the freedom of speech. The world over is also witnessing a new culture of stifling online speech with multinational organizations and governments banning and censoring free speech on online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook in line with divergent views. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a digital migration in a time when people could not meet physically and the only recourse was the internet. The internet for a long time became crucial for education, work and sharing important information crucial to saving lives. It has since become a critical platform for ensuring Access to Justice through tele-conferencing, the freedom of expression and a vehicle for equality by becoming a means of sensitization of the masses on any matter. All these have made the internet an enabler for the enjoyment of human rights and in itself has increasingly become a basic right. It even goes as far as democracy and the exercise of civil and political rights as witnessed in various internet shutdowns across the world that have greatly undermined access to the service that many depend on for various needs. Censorship and internet shutdowns only work to undermine fundamental human rights of a political, social and economic nature and therefore should be stood against. Today, Refugee Law Project stands with all actors that have done and continue to do their part to ensure that human beings live dignified lives regardless of their nationality, race, religion, political association or otherwise and calls upon civil society actors, organizations and the government of Uganda to stand up and speak against the various human rights violations in our country and beyond and to protect survivors of violations to ensure that human rights are upheld and respected in all spheres of life.

Commemorating the Day of the African Child, 16th June 2022

Eliminating Harmful Practices against Children: A call for a Renewed Commitment to Promoting the Inclusion of Children with Special Needs. Today marks 31 years since the African Union declared the 16 of June the Day of the African Child. The day was first observed in 1991 to remember the lives of over 1000 innocent children as they rose to protest the discriminatory practices and poor quality of education orchestrated by the apartheid regime in South Africa. The day is marked annually to raise awareness of the plight of vulnerable children in Africa and across the globe.   Refugee Law Project joins the rest of the world to commemorate the Day of the African Child under the theme: “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013”. This theme is timely given the unique challenges children face in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maputo Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa looks at harmful practices, including all behavior, attitudes and practices which negatively affect the fundamental rights of women and girls, such as their right to life, health, dignity, education and physical integrity.   The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) selected this theme to call on Governments, UN Agencies, International Organizations, NGOs, CSOs and other relevant stakeholders to renew their ongoing engagements toward the protection and assistance of children affected by harmful practices, through the organisation of specific activities and programs to prevent, protect and assist children who are at risk and victims of harmful practices in Africa. Government and non-government organisations have significantly protected children against harmful practices. This includes: a) the National Child Policy (NCP) demonstrates the commitment of the government of Uganda to ensure the well-being of children; b) the National Child Protection Working Group, which brings together all partners working towards the protection and wellbeing of children, c) “Sauti” is a new initiative based in Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), a communication platform for reporting all abuses against children are among the many approaches that Uganda is implementing to ensure protection and welfare of children. However, it is important to pay attention to the following;   RISK: Many vulnerable children, especially those affected by forced displacement, including refugees, are at a greater risk of facing harmful practices.  Refugee children with special needs, particularly those with disabilities, face double jeopardy as they not only have to deal with the past traumatic experiences of forced migration but also work through the stigma and discrimination resulting from embedded social attitudes on disability and special needs. These children often face a lot of harmful practices including abuse but also subtler ones like labelling that affect their esteem and general wellbeing.   HARMFUL PRACTICES: Refugee children with special needs are affected by a myriad of harmful practices ranging from cultural practices such as early marriages, relating disability and special needs to sorcery, hiding children with special needs away due to stigma and shame, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, lack of inclusiveness among other harmful practices. These have far-reaching consequences on the well-being of all children, especially, refugee children with special needs. Generally, the negative perception families, communities, and schools have about the potential of these children to become successful citizens that culminate in fewer expectations of what they can do, further discouraging them from aspiring to succeed, which may lead to dropping out of school.  Such harmful practices breed physical and psychological effects; physically, the neglect may turn the condition from mild to severe, as the child may not receive timely medical and psychosocial support interventions. Physical and social barriers may limit the child’s participation, and such children may drop out of school. Emotionally, refugee children with special needs may withdraw from family, peers, school settings, and community. They grapple with feelings of low self-esteem coupled with a negative view of themselves and the world. These effects may make it difficult for such children to form an identity.   LIMITED ACCESS TO EDUCATION: It is important to recognise that limited access to education fuels harmful practices and continually exposes children to other forms of harm, including child marriages. Yet refugee children, especially those with disabilities, remain with limited access to education. More than half of all refugee children in Uganda (57%) are out of school. Yet many have often missed school for several years; their attendance is more inconsistent due to their living difficulties. Further still, for those who can attend school, the quality of education is severely compromised by a shortage of classrooms, teachers’ materials and large class sizes of up to 1:150 children minimum. Language barriers remain a barrier for many children who come from non-English speaking countries. Although there are no good statistics, children with disabilities tend to face additional educational barriers due to their requirement for extra support.   As Refugee Law Project, we believe limited access to education puts many children at risk of the many harmful practices and efforts to ensure all children, especially the most marginalized, attain quality, accessible and inclusive education present a significant opportunity for fighting harmful practices against children.   Refugee Law Project’s Interventions: Refugee Law Project, in partnership with other stakeholders, has invested in building the capacity of different stakeholders including parents, caretakers, teachers, school management committees, local leaders, service providers among others to equip them with knowledge and skills needed to respond to the needs of children with special need. Efforts are being made to improve access to inclusive education for refugee children with special needs in order to give them a chance to life and protect them from harm.   As we commemorate the day of the African Child, lets reflect on the strides made in promoting quality inclusive education for children with special needs, the barriers that still exist, and forging a way forward into a future where all children are supported fully access education to realise their potential. This is one of the best ways of protecting children from harm, because quality inclusive education provides safety to children. Call to Action Government should expedite the enactment of the Inclusive Education policy to ensure that all children are supported to attain quality inclusive education. We need to continuously raise awareness about the importance of children’s full participation in education All stakeholders need to reflect on and respond to the less recognized harmful practices that continue to disempower children. Service providers should strive to provide trauma-informed support services for refugee children with special needs. Happy International Day of the African Child, 2022   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact Us

+256 (0) 414 343 556

+256 (0) 800-100555

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Mon-Fri 9:00-17:00

Plot 7&6 Coronation Road, Old Kampala, Kamplala (Opp. Old Kampala Primary School)


Join Our Emailing List

Sign up to receive tailored insights from the Refugee Law Project grounded in our work.