Learning from Africa

Across UK and the rest of Europe, asylum policies are failing refugees and migrants.

Now is a good time to look towards Africa, and Uganda in particular, for a different perspective. Uganda is currently accommodating 1.4 million refugees mainly from South Sudan, but also Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo, with numbers expected to swell to nearly 2 million by the end of this year.

Uganda has been widely lauded as one of the most progressive refugee-hosting countries in the world. In contrast to the UK, it allows refugees the right to work when they arrive. For some 30 years, Uganda has recognised that enabling rural refugees to cultivate underused plots of land has been a means to support their national development. Refugees can establish businesses, many of which trade with and employ Ugandans and other refugees.

Even now when Uganda is absorbing huge numbers of refugees from the recent South Sudanese and Congolese conflicts, the government has remained staunchly committed to this approach. As new emergency camps have been created to accommodate recent arrivals, the right to work has encouraged the development of new local market towns, creating opportunities too for many Ugandans.

While the Ugandan approach and other African models may be not be perfect, they remind us that there are other models out there which we may be able to learn from. Models which have proved successful in countries much poorer than our own where refugees and migrants are more likely to be perceived as a benefit as opposed to a burden.

Includes extracts from ‘What Europe could learn from the way Africa treats refugees’ by Alexander Betts – theguardian.com on Tuesday 26 June 2018.