Since the 1940s, Uganda has generously hosted refugees from Africa and beyond. Today the majority of Uganda’s refugees and asylum seekers originate from neighboring countries affected by conflict including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. As a country at the center of a troubled region, Uganda has received praises for its generous policy towards refugees. In the last three years however, international attention towards the country’s refugee policy has increased following the migrant ‘crisis’ in Europe and South Sudan conflict. States and critics alike are turning to the country now hosting the largest refugee population in Africa to draw lessons and analyze the practicability and sustainability of its generous refugee policy.
The refugee context in Uganda is very dynamic and constantly changing. In June 2016, the refugee population stood at about 573,173 with the majority coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Many of these refugees were settled in the western and south western parts of Uganda in gazetted refugee settlements. From July 2016 onwards, Uganda began to receive about 4,000 South Sudanese daily, fleeing major unrest in the world’s newest country. Today, the refugee population stands at over 1,252,470 (about 3% of the total population in Uganda). Half the refugees are South Sudanese, with multiple new refugee settlements having been set up in the northern part of the country. Currently, the largest settlement is Bidibidi, with about 270,000 refugees and the population ratio of refugees to nationals in some districts is 2:3.