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Uganda opens border to DR Congo refugees


<p><strong>Uganda opened its borders to thousands of people fleeing violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday.</strong></p> <p>Refugees from the <span class="caps">DRC</span> were stuck in a remote area since late May after border crossing was disallowed due to coronavirus restrictions.</p> <p>The Ugandan government agreed to temporarily open the two border crossing points in Zombo on humanitarian grounds.</p> <p>Hilary Obaloker Onek, Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in Uganda, ceremoniously welcomed the refugees at the border.</p> <p>“Our country is small but we still allow them, out of sympathy,” Onek said.</p> <p>The UN refugee agency (<span class="caps">UNHCR</span>) said it was working with the Government of Uganda and partners to make sure humanitarian assistance, including food and shelter will be available.</p> <p>The agency said it was also working with border security forces and the Ministry of Health to ensure screening, testing and response measures for <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19.</p> <p>After initial screening, asylum seekers will be transported by <span class="caps">UNHCR</span> to an Institutional Quarantine Centre 13 kilometres (8 miles) from the border.</p> <p>Following the mandatory quarantine period of 14 days in line with health guidelines and protocols, they will be relocated to existing refugee settlements.</p> <p>In Uganda, refugees and asylum seekers are included in the national surveillance, preparedness, and response plans and activities.</p> <p>At the border, Congolese refugee Oronyboth Victor said he woke one morning to rebels destroying his community.</p> <p>“I decided to run away because our neighbours were killed. Our crops and animals were all destroyed,” he said.</p> <p>As the impacts of the <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 pandemic continue to be felt, <span class="caps">UNHCR</span> said the needs of refugees and local communities that host them continue to grow and put increased pressure on already overstretched resources.</p> <p>The <span class="caps">UNHCR</span> said the pandemic came at the same time as a 30% food ration-cut for refugees and severe gaps in education, child protection and mental health support due to existing funding shortfalls. </p> <p><strong><em>AP</em></strong></p>

Our country is small but we still allow them, out of sympathy.

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