UN Says Refugees in Uganda Exceed 500,000 on Regional Unrest

  • Rise spurred by people fleeing South Sudan, Burundi, Congo
  • Global refugee numbers seen at highest level since 1992

Uganda is hosting more than half a million refugees and asylum seekers for the first time in its history, with the rise stoked by war and political upheaval elsewhere in East Africa, the United Nations said.

The figure reached 510,973 on Dec. 10, spurred by an increase in people seeking shelter from unrest in South Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN Refugee Agency said Friday in a statement. Uganda is the biggest host of refugees on the continent after Ethiopia and Kenya and the eighth-largest in the world, the UN said.

Refugees wait at a refugee transit center in Adjumani

Photographer: Isaac Kasamani/AFP via Getty Images

The country has shown “outstanding generosity and hospitality” to refugees and asylum seekers, Neimah Warsame, the UN High Commission for Refugees representative in Uganda, said in the statement. Uganda is “providing refugees with some of the best prospects for self-reliance and normality found anywhere in the world,” she said.

Uganda’s situation is part of a global trend. The number of refugees worldwide reached 20.2 million in mid-2015, the first time it’s hit that level since 1992, and up from 19.5 million a year earlier, with Syria’s conflict a major factor, according to the UN. Forced displacement within countries is also on the rise, with this year on track to see the combined figure of all who’ve fled their homes exceed 60 million, a record high.

More than 90,000 people fled to Uganda from South Sudan, Congo and Burundi in 2015 alone, the UN said. South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, has been mired in two years of civil war that have forced at least 2 million people to flee their homes amid international efforts to broker a peace agreement. The eastern part of Congo, bordering Uganda, has been roiled by instability for decades and is home to rebel groups from Uganda and Rwanda.

Burundi, which has 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves, descended into violence in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his bid to run for re-election, which he later won. More than 400 people have been killed in the past eight months, including at least 87 last week.

MAP: Uganda

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