By CAFOMI communications.
For the last 13 days, hundreds of Congolese asylum seekers have been crossing into Uganda due to ADF rebel attacks in the trading centers of Nobil, Kamango and Jiapande. The refugees majorly enter through the border points of Kasindi-Bwera, Busunga, Busu-Bundingoma, Kasiri-Nyahuka, and Butogo-Kisubba.
Although majority of these seek refuge in the host community, a good number is still taken to Bubukwanga transit centre at free will.
Care and Assistance for Forced Migrants (CAFOMI) receives the PoCs at these border points alongside partners, Uganda Red Cross, Medical Teams International and save the children, working closely with the GoU, UNHCR and WFP.
On arrival at Bubukwanga transit centre, the asylum seekers are screened for COVID 19, nationality and security details, after which they are registered to attain refugee status in Uganda. Each of them is given a card which helps identify them within their new environment (Bubukwanga TC) where they sojourn.
Being a transit centre, Bubukwanga can only keep refugees for a maximum of 3 days because it doesn’t have facilities which can sustain its sojourners for a long time as compared to a settlement. Therefore the team carries out frequent convoys with refugees heading to settlements to create space for new arrivals.
Preparations for a convoy begin two days earlier with Refugees being wrist banded with a blue number labelled bracelet which helps identify those meant to be part of a particular convoy.
Refugees come into Uganda with their luggage which is also transported with them to the settlement. So a day earlier all luggage is loaded onto UNHCR trucks that later remain standby waiting for the procession of the convoy the next day.
The convoy day comes with a mixture of emotions for both the refugees and staff preparing the convoy. For the refugees, it is excitement because most of them feel like they are safer when they are taken far away from the border.
“My family and I are excited to go because we are being taken to a place of safety” Franswaze Apolina expressed in Lubwisi, aboard one of the UNHCR buses.
Before departure, some refugees even find time to appreciate the team for making them feel comfortable during their temporary stay at the transit.
“A duo of young refugee boys approached me on one of the departure days just to apologize and even appreciate our efforts, this triggered a lot of emotion within me.” Denis Ssemambo the Admin and Finance person of CAFOMI vividly recounts.
As the loaded buses begin to gently progress out of the transit center, a zephyr of joy captures the atmosphere, with an exchange of ululations between the refugees in the buses and the ones remaining at the transit.
OPM, UNHCR, WFP, CAFOMI, Red Cross, Save the Children and Medical teams international are continuously putting heads together to manage the refugee influx in the Rwenzori region.