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Uganda lifts COVID-19 closure admits refugees escaping escalating violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Duniya Aslam Khan in Zombo district, Uganda

She is sick, she is frail and separated from her family. Emmanuelle Ochaya, 56, has been sleeping in a scanty makeshift hut, in the middle of a forest on cold, bare ground for almost one month. The nighttime temperature here drops to 10°C and her only belongings are the clothes she is wearing.
Emmanuelle is among an estimated 45,000 of people who fled attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that erupted in May. According to community representatives, armed groups began a violent rampage in War-Palara chiefdom, Mahagi Territory, including killings, sexual violence and looting.

“On my way, I saw people being killed, their belongings and houses burnt to ashes, nothing was left untouched.”

When Emmanuelle’s village, Zulu, was attacked by armed militia, houses were set ablaze, her neighbours were killed and she ran for her life. “On my way, I saw people being killed, their belongings and houses burnt to ashes, nothing was left untouched,” she said in a frail voice.

Emmanuelle was part of a group of people who reportedly gathered at the Ugandan border with the DRC seeking safety. They got stranded in a remote and inaccessible area as the borders between the two countries remained closed due to a COVID-19 lockdown that halted the admission of new asylum-seekers into the country.

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On Wednesday, Uganda temporarily re-opened two border crossing points, through Guladjo and Mount Zeu in Zombo district, to provide a safe haven with access to life-saving aid and protection to those who remained. Some 1,500 asylum-seekers crossed into Uganda. The border will remain open until Friday once the humanitarian operation is complete and then close again until further notice.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partners, in coordination with the Office of the Prime Minister, the Health Ministry and the district local government, have been working around the clock in Zombo district to strengthen reception capacities, including quarantine facilities, at the border and ensure adequate levels of emergency assistance are available.

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All new arrivals undergo security and health screening at the border. Vulnerable individuals like Emmanuelle are fast-tracked for assistance.

Asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo wait for health screening near the border in Zombo, Uganda.

Most asylum-seekers who arrived on the first day of border opening were women, children and older people. They were hungry and tired. Many also arrived in a frail state having been in a precarious situation, hiding in the bush for the past several weeks without sufficient access to food, clean drinking water and shelter.

The group will initially be quarantined at Zewdu Farm Institute, 13 kilometres from the border crossing, which can accommodate some 6,000 people. UNHCR and partners have installed tents, health screening areas, toilets, handwashing facilities and water tanks.

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Following the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days, in line with national guidelines and protocols, asylum-seekers will be transported to existing refugee settlements. Emmanuelle does not know what the future holds for her in Uganda, but she hopes she will get medical care and enough food to eat. Not so long ago, she was with her extended family of eight children and 26 grandchildren. All of them were working their land and growing their own food.

Today she will join a group of asylum-seekers who will soon receive hot meals, blankets to keep warm and a tent to sleep in.

“The needs are huge and growing.”

With 1.4 million refugees, Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa. The arrival of new asylum-seekers is happening at a time when the refugee response is facing multiple challenges due to underfunding, including severe food ration cuts.

With 870 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Uganda, including 52 refugees, UNHCR has been working with the Government and partners to construct and strengthen quarantine and isolation facilities and increase handwashing supplies and availability of maks as part of the response plan.

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Joel Boutroue, UNHCR’s Representative in Uganda, welcomed and commended the country’s decision to open it’s doors yet again for people fleeing for their lives.

“It proves that even in the midst of a global crisis like COVID-19, there are ways to manage border restrictions in a manner which respects international human rights and refugee protection standards,” he said.

Many of UNHCR’s transit and reception facilities across the country have been converted into institutional quarantine centres for the district, offering additional support for hundreds of Ugandans and refugees on a daily basis.

“The needs are huge and growing,” added Boutroue.

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

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ILO, IOM sign agreement to strengthen collaboration on migration governance

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed an Agreement to create a framework for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all.

The framework includes joint support for improved migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels. Other areas of work may also be developed.

The Agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and António Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, on Friday at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Ryder said, “this Agreement seals an important alliance between our two organizations. Together, we will be stronger and more effective in both fulfilling our individual mandates and in collaborating on areas that are crucial for reshaping the world of work so that it is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a brutal impact on economies and societies. Vulnerable groups, particularly migrant workers and their families, are being disproportionately hit. There could be no better time to reinforce our partnership and combine our strengths, so that we can help countries and our constituents build back for a better future.”

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DG Vitorino said, “the agreement that we are signing today will help us further solidify our collaboration at the time when joint solutions are so much needed, with a pandemic that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. As we move towards post-pandemic recovery, we fully embrace the call to build a better world together, tapping into the added value of each partner. With ILO, we have much to co-create and we look forward to future cooperation within the broader UN family, with our partner governments, private sector and civil society.”

The new ILO-IOM Agreement builds on the agencies’ comparative advantages, expertise, and respective constituencies. By encouraging joint initiatives, the Agreement aims to strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.

By encouraging social dialogue, it will allow workers` and employers` organizations – who sit equally with governments in the ILO’s tripartite membership structure – to contribute to policy discussions.

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A workplan will be developed in the next six months to push forward the collaboration at global, regional and country levels and, more importantly, facilitate the implementation of the Agreement in the field, where both agencies are working directly with affected populations.

It will seek to enhance the agencies joint contribution to their member states, UN country teams, and societies to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agreement will also allow the ILO and IOM to strengthen support for their respective constituencies in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), and contribute to other global and regional migration policy fora and debates.

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Stop enslavement of Africans in other continents- Experts tell African leaders

The second international migration summit by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) ended on Friday, October 16, 2020,  at the Pensioners FM, Ibadan, Oyo State, with a call to  African leaders to deliver good governance to halt continued enslavement of the Africans in other continents through irregular migration.

The conference themed: Migration governance and media strategy for development   with physical and virtual presentations was attended by hundreds of journalists and other participants across the world.

President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, in his remark after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Diaspora Innovation Institute (DII), US, on training and investment opportunities for journalists, said the global media body with over 200 journalists spread across the continents as parts of the fallouts of the summit would produce glossary of terminologies for over 10,000 journalists and media houses beyond Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Oluwaseyi Makinde of Oyo State hailed JIFORM’s  advocacy and identified poverty as the root cause of irregular migration pledging commitment to reverse the tide through good governance.

Represented by Barrister Olubunmi Ogunniran, Director General of Legal Administration, Oyo State Ministry of Justice, the governor said apart from rescuing trafficked indigenes of the state abroad and creating diaspora unit, he had inaugurated a task force against human trafficking, sexual offenders with prosecute department and further engagement of the youths through economic activities.

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Minister of Labour Sierra Leone, Mr Alpha Timbo; Ghana Ambassador to Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan, Nii Okai Hammond, and the United Nations Youth Ambassador (Ghana), Lilian Addo, all praised what they tagged courageous movement by JIFORM and promised to support the body in its quest to further spread its advocacies.

Chairman of the summit, Patrick Lumumba,  rued the faulty labour and trade laws in Africa limiting development and called on the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) for ntervention to remove migration barriers causing undue frictions between Ghana and Nigeria ditto for the African Union to end the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against other African nationals.

He blamed the crisis on misapplication of resources and corruption among African leaders and urged them to retrace their steps to save the youths from desperate migration to other continents through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe lauded JIFORM’s efforts to eradicate irregular migration and vowed to rescue and end the suffering of stranded Nigerians lured through human trafficking to the Middle East and other Arabian nations through collaborations.

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Member of African Union Advisory Committee on Labour Migration, (Ghana) Dr Princess Ocansey urged the African nations to end the Kafala bilateral agreement entered into with some Middle East countres that permitted the en-slavery of mostly African women.

“African leaders must wake up to save the youths from deadly work they are being subjected and replace that with decent work. The Kafala system is a shame and very dehumanizing” she said.

Former Canada Minister of Immigration, Gerry Weiner while delivering his presentation urged the African youths to acquit themselves with the right processes to tap into numerous diaspora opportunities in Canada and elsewhere.

Weiner, who had 12 years working experience in Africa, said only safe and regular migration, would guarantee the actualization of the desire to be part of  economic activities in the world.

The summit had participation from several international speaker that Prince Akin Ojomo from DII; included Johanna Mac from Erich Brost Institute, Germany; Barrister Samuel Adeusi and Ms Omotola Fawunmi both from the US; International Organization for Migration (IOM), Nigeria and Gambia; Rescue African Mission; Synergy Rescue Mission; ThisLebanon Lebanon; Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM); National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP); Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Ghana Immigration Service; Diaspora Innovation Institute, New York, America; and Ghana Immigration Service.

READ  Hondurans, Salvadorans relive abusive experiences at US border

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

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