Launch of the Countrywide Biometric Refugee Verification Exercise in Uganda


MBARARA, Uganda (1 March 2018)—The Government of Uganda today launched the biometric refugee verification exercise in Oruchinga Refugee Settlement located in Mbarara District in the South-West of Uganda.

The launch was presided over by Douglas Asiimwe, the Officer in Charge of Refugee Protection in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM). He was accompanied by UNHCR Representative, Bornwell Kantande and the Country Director of the World Food Programme, El Khidir Daloum. They toured the site where 64 OPM and UNHCR staff are conducting the verification supported by 42 volunteers from the refugee community, who are assisting with translation and crowd control. Local police are providing security.

Addressing refugees at the site, Mr. Asiimwe explained that the Government was using UNHCR’s advanced registration tools to improve refugee data. “The exercise follows a directive by the Prime Minister to authenticate the data contained in the Government’s refugee registration system,” he said. “It will help us to ensure that we have credible information to protect and assist refugees effectively and efficiently.”

Asiimwe added that by collecting fingerprints, scanning eyes, and recording information about refugees’ vulnerabilities, the Government and partners working in refugee response will be better placed to ensure that only those who are deserving are protected and assisted. Oruchinga has 6,852 registered refugees. The verification exercise is expected to last until 4 March.

The UNHCR Representative commended the show of goodwill by the Government, which demonstrates its commitment towards ensuring responsibility and accountability in the refugee response. “This verification exercise will benefit you and your families,” he told the refugees. “Your children and the children in host communities must go to school. Elderly people, too, must be supported.”

Kantande called on the refugees to cooperate with the verification teams, and to be patient. “If they ask questions, it is to make sure that proper information is recorded. That information is needed to support the Government to provide you services,” he added.

The WFP Country Director highlighted the importance of partnership. “We are here to support the Government, the people of Uganda and UNHCR so together we can serve you better. By conducting this verification, the Government is making a milestone step and is proving to the international community that we are delivering accountably to all of you,” he said. “It will equip us to deliver food to the right people and leave no one behind.”

Daloum lauded the OPM and UNHCR verification teams, saying what he had witnessed was above his expectations. He announced to cheers from the refugees that in January this year WFP lifted the ration cuts affecting 236,000 refugees who had been receiving half rations for a year and a half.

In the coming weeks, the verification exercise will be rolled out to all refugee settlements and urban refugees in Kampala. The countrywide exercise will completed in September 2018, with six teams working simultaneously over the coming months to register 18,000 people a day. Those who are verified will receive new ration cards, and biometric identification will henceforth be used to provide individual assistance.

Current Government statistics put the number of refugees in Uganda at 1.4 million, of whom over one million entered the country during the past 18 months. There are continuing new arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Uganda also hosts large numbers of refugees from Burundi, Somalia and other countries.