Responses to Information Requests

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14 January 2020

UGA106396.E

Uganda: Refugee Family Attestation document, including whether it indicates that refugee status has been granted to those listed on the document, or whether refugee status was requested; length of time between the issuance of such a document and when a claimant's status is determined (2017-December 2019)

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

For information on refugee status in Uganda, see Response to Information Request UGA106216 of December 2018.

1. Overview

Information on the Ugandan Refugee Family Attestation document was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an "independent, international, humanitarian [NGO]," indicates that "[t]he designation [by the Ugandan government] of a country as being one from which asylum seekers can obtain prima facie status is generally given where the circumstances in the country that lead to people fleeing are indicative of conditions for refugee status" and that an asylum seeker from a recognized country "is given refugee status on the basis of their nationality and without having to go through an individual determination of whether they me[e]t the definition of a refugee under the law" (NRC 29 Nov. 2019, 2, 9). Section 4(f) of Uganda's The Refugee Act 2006 lists "… a member of a class of persons declared to be refugees under section 25 of this Act" among those qualified to be granted refugee status; Section 25 of the same act provides the following:

  1. The Minister may, if it is evident that a class of persons qualifies to be refugees under section 4 of this Act, declare that class of persons to be refugees.
  2. The Minister shall cause a declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be published in the Gazette and in any other manner that will best ensure that the declaration is brought to the attention of the authorised officers and persons to whom it relates.
  3. The Minister may, where there is a mass influx of asylum seekers into Uganda, in consultation with the Minister responsible for internal affairs, issue an order permitting the asylum seekers to reside in Uganda without requiring their individual status to be determined under section 4 of this Act.
  4. A declaration made under subsection (3) of this section is valid for a period of two years from the date of the declaration or until the cause of the influx into Uganda from the country of origin or habitual residence ceases to exist, whichever is sooner.
  5. Where asylum seekers are permitted to reside in Uganda under subsection (3) of this section, they shall be subject to the general treatment and rights accorded to refugees under this Act.
  6. The exclusion of a specified person from a declaration made under subsection (1) of this section shall not preclude that person from applying to the Eligibility Committee for the grant of refugee status under this Act.
  7. The termination of temporary protection granted by the Minister under subsection (3) of this section shall not preclude any individual of the group of asylum seekers from applying to the Eligibility Committee for the grant of refugee status under this Act. (Uganda 2006)

Sources report that Uganda grants prima facie refugee status to asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Amnesty International 22 Feb. 2018; UN Feb. 2018). Sources also report that Uganda accepts South Sudanese asylum seekers as prima facie refugees, but that it ended prima facie acceptance of Burundian asylum seekers in June 2017 (Amnesty International 22 Feb. 2018; NRC 29 Nov. 2019, 14; UN 18 Dec. 2018, 7).

The NRC reports, in a study of the refugee status determination process in Uganda, that for prima facie refugees, including people from South Sudan, in "settlements," [1]

[a] short interview is held to confirm the person’s identity and nationality as South Sudanese to confirm the refugee status and issue a family refugee attestation document, which is the first documentary evidence of refugee status. The Refugee Family Attestation document is used to access services in the settlement.

The process of registration of South Sudanese refugees generally takes from a few days to up to two weeks. In theory refugees over the age of 16 should be issued with a refugee identity card at this time, however, in practice the issuance of these cards is often delayed until after the person leaves the reception centre and in some cases many months after refugee status has been granted.

Additionally, if a family member joins their family in the settlement[,] the process of being added to a family refugee attestation document may take many months. Delays in providing identity documents hamper freedom of movement and access to services. If a refugee does not have a refugee identity card it will be difficult to travel independently of their family as they will not have any documents proving their legal right to be in Uganda. (NRC 29 Nov. 2019, 9)

According to the same source, for non prima facie refugees,

[i]f an [a]pplicant is determined to be a refugee[,] they are issued with a letter containing the decision, a refugee family attestation document and within a week or two they are able to obtain a refugee identity card. If an [a]pplicant is found not [to] be a refugee[,] they are issued with a letter stating that their case is rejected and they have a right to seek internal review. It is noted that the rejection letters are written in English and handed to [a]pplicants at the [Office of the Prime Minister, OPM] offic[es]. OPM confirmed that generally [a]pplicants are assisted by interpreters to understand the decision and their rights to appeal and to lodge a request for a review. (NRC 29 Nov. 2019, 14)

Similarly, the Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, cites the Ugandan OPM as indicating that family attestation letters are "only issued to those granted refugee status" (Daily Monitor 14 Oct. 2019).

Further information on the content of Refugee Family Attestations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2. Loss of or Multiple Family Attestation Documents

According to a document prepared by Development Pathways, a company with offices in the UK and in Kenya that conducts research "on poverty, vulnerability and on humanitarian issues" and provides "evidence-based policy and strategic advice on social and economic challenges to [g]overnments, international organisations, and other development partners" (Development Pathways n.d.), based on research conducted on behalf of the World Food Programme, the Ugandan government and the UNHCR, the loss of family attestation and/or ration cards creates a "risk" in terms of access to food rations and cash payments (Development Pathways Apr. 2018, 98). According to the same source, "[r]efugees arriving and re‐uniting with family members find it difficult to be included in household attestations and, therefore, have to share the rations of their family members," while other families may have multiple "family attestation cards instead of officially merging into one" (Development Pathways Apr. 2018, 121). The same source also states the following: "Although family attestation cards (which are in fact paper hard copies) and ration cards are supposed to be regularly replaced, this does not happen in practice. Both cards become excessively damaged and indecipherable over time leading to opportunities for identity theft and other forms of corruption" (Development Pathways Apr. 2018, 202). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Note

[1] According to Amnesty International, "[i]n Uganda, refugees are hosted in designated areas called 'settlements' where they are allocated pieces of land to put up shelters, grow food and start their own businesses" (Amnesty International 19 June 2017).

References

Amnesty International. 22 February 2018. "Uganda." Amnesty International Report 2017/2018: The State of the World's Human Rights. [Accessed 28 Nov. 2019]

Amnesty International. 19 June 2017. "8 Things You Need to Know About Refugees in Uganda." [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019]

Daily Monitor. 14 October 2019. Amos Ngwomoya. "SIM Card Scam: OPM Protests Ban on Refugee IDs." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019]

Development Pathways. April 2018. Analysis of Refugee Vulnerability in Uganda and Recommendations for Improved Targeting of Food Assistance. [Accessed 10 Dec. 2019]

Development Pathways. N.d. "Our Work." [Accessed 31 Dec. 2019]

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). 29 November 2019. Alison Ryan. Refugee Status Determination: A Study of the Process in Uganda. [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019]

Uganda. 2006. The Refugees Act 2006. [Accessed 30 Dec. 2019]

United Nations (UN). 18 December 2018. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Uganda Country Refugee Response Plan, January 2019 — December 2020. [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019]

United Nations (UN). February 2018. UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). Uganda CO: Humanitarian Situation Report. [Accessed 3 Dec. 2019]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Foundation for Human Rights Initiative; International Refugee Rights Initiative; Norwegian Refugee Council; Uganda – embassy in Washington, DC, high commission in Ottawa, Office of the Prime Minister; UN – UNHCR.

Internet sites, including: Danish Refugee Council; ecoi.net; Electronic Journals Service; Factiva; Human Rights Watch; International Crisis Group; International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance; International Refugee Rights Initiative; Keesing Technologies – Documentchecker; Uganda – Office of the Prime Minister; UN – ReliefWeb; The World Bank.