The refugee experience in Uganda

Uganda’s progressive approach seeks to enable refugee and host communities to meet their immediate needs and manage future shocks.

The admission rate for refugees in Uganda is one of the highest in the world. Refugees enjoy legal, physical and social protection.

In Uganda, refugees use available public health services, have access to universal primary and lower secondary education, and engage in economic activity.

Uganda is unique in the region in not following a policy of refugee encampment. Most refugees reside in rural settlements alongside Ugandan citizens thanks to the Government’s non-encampment policy. Nearly 100,000 live as urban refugees in towns and cities.

Access to agricultural land brings huge benefits to refugees and provides the foundation for sustainable livelihoods for a significant number. Nevertheless, the size and quality of land currently available are unlikely to allow refugees to move much beyond subsistence farming.

A 2015 World Bank assessment found over 78% of respondents in refugee settlements were engaged in agriculture, thanks to the land they are provided. Nearly 43% were actively engaged in the labor market (12% in the formal sector; 31% self-employed).

There is economic interdependence among refugees, and between refugees and host communities. Traders from both communities deal in agricultural produce and manufactured goods. Refugee settlement areas have attracted Ugandan private enterprise, for example, SMS banking and transfer services.

There is a commendable level of peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities, confirmed by local leaders, refugee representatives, government officials at central and district level, UNHCR and implementing partners.

Refugees enjoy a symbiotic/mutually beneficial relationship with host communities thanks in large part to the non discriminatory policies of government which encourage people of different nationalities and ethnicities to live peacefully side by side.