Uganda agrees to take in Afghan refugees temporarily at US request

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Following the Taliban’s sudden seizure of power in Afghanistan, Uganda has announced its readiness to take in Afghan refugees on a temporary basis.

The Ugandan Minister for Refugees Esther Anyakun told the dpa on Tuesday that the East African country was complying with a request made by the US government and was expecting at least 2,000 asylum seekers to arrive in the country soon. The refugees are to stay in Uganda until they can travel to a safe third country, Anyakun said.

“The US reached our government to see if it could be in position to host the refugees and we accepted this. These are extraordinary engagements as we had no established programme to host these people,” the minister said by telephone, adding that Ugandan government remains unsure how soon it will be until the first refugees arrive.

After being tested for coronavirus and interviewed by the Ugandan authorities, the refugees will first be accommodated in hotels near Entebbe airport and then transferred to refugee camps, Anyakun said.

Tents and other relief supplies have already been brought to airport in preparation for the first arrivals, she added. The landlocked East African country of 44 million people is already host to some 1.5 million refugees from conflict-afflicted neighbours South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Anyakun said she expected the refugees “to be a mix of people fleeing Afghanistan.” She was keen to emphasize that the arrangement would be a temporary one given the urgency of the current situation.

“They will not be here on a long-term basis. This will be like a processing centre”, she said.

Other countries, including Albania and Kosovo, have also agreed to US requests to temporarily accept Afghan refugees.

The US government has been trying for months to win over third countries to accept the Afghans – primarily former local employees of the US authorities in Afghanistan and their families.

In the United States, up to 22,000 of them will initially be housed on military bases. They still face a lengthy asylum process before they can start their new life in the US.

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