Members of Parliament have blocked a recommendation by the House Committee on Human Rights that sought to grant citizenship to children of refugees born in Uganda, and register them at birth as Ugandans.
The recommendation was contained in a report on the recommendations of the 20th Annual Report of the Uganda Human Rights Commission; presented to Parliament by the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Agnes Taaka on Monday, 10 May 2021.
The Committee observed that refugees were registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency and received a UN document as well as registration by the Office of the Prime Minister in recognition of their refugee status, but in reality, many had no ongoing contact with their country of origin.
“These refugees have fully integrated into the host communities yet lack identification from their countries of origin. In light this, , children born are likely to remain stateless because they can neither acquire citizenship based on birth in Uganda nor citizenship from their parents’ country of origin due to lack of documentation,” said Taaka.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, expressed concern with committee’s suggestion, also noting that refugees were supposed to return to their home countries when things got better.
“I want to invite the Chairperson of the Committee to formally withdraw the recommendation on citizenship for refugee children born in Uganda because it is extremely risky,” directed the Speaker.
Kadaga cited the example of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that does not give Emirati citizenship to non-nationals albeit being born there, in a bid to ensure that their population is intact.
Members of Parliament also presented a dissenting opinion on the matter, with many saying that it would disenfranchise the Ugandan citizens as regards land and settlement.
“Many refugees come with lots of money so it is easy for them to buy off the poor peasants and at the end of the day, we are going to lose. The system of allowing them to integrate fully in the community should not be allowed because there are refugee camps established for them,” said Hon. Johnson Ssenyonga (NRM, Mukono County South).
“I would accept if a Ugandan male impregnated a refugee here, because that child could be registered as a Ugandan,” added Bunyole West County MP hon. James Waluswaka.
MPs also called on Government to expedite the establishment of new leadership of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, after its former chairperson, Al-Hajj Meddie Kagwa, passed away on Wednesday, 20 November 2019.
Hon. Taaka withdrew the recommendation before the House adopted the report.
Among other recommendations made by the committee included suggestions to improve operations of different national agencies including the Uganda Police Force, Ministry of Public Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Heath, the Lotteries and Gaming Regulatory Board and the Law Reform Commission; among others.