Uganda on Wednesday temporarily opened its borders to receive thousands of people fleeing deadly ethnic clashes in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency said.
Mr Hilary Onek, the minister for relief, disaster preparedness and refugees, launched the three-day exercise to receive and provide asylum to an estimated 10,000 refugees in the northwest border district of Zombo.
Ms Duniya Aslam Khan, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Uganda, told Xinhua by telephone that the asylum-seekers who have been stuck between Uganda and eastern DRC since May will be put under quarantine for 14 days against COVID-19.
“Yes, the exercise has started,” Khan said. “The border will be open for three days to allow all those people (asylum-seekers) who are willing to cross.”
“It’s voluntary. People who choose to come will come and those who may decide to stay there will remain,” she said.
“They will be brought to the quarantine centre where they will stay for 14 days during which they will be tested for COVID-19. After 14 days’ quarantine they will be shifted to any of the refugee settlements,” Khan added.
Authorities on Monday delayed reception of the DRC refugees over security concerns.
The suspension followed an incident in March when some people from DR Congo and Uganda attacked an army unit in Zombo. Three soldiers and 17 attackers were killed in the incident.
Mr Onek told Xinhua on Tuesday that the authorities will carry out proper security checks before allowing the refugees into the country.
In March this year, Uganda closed all its border entry points to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to the UN refugee agency, Uganda hosts some 1.4 million refugees, mostly from neighbouring South Sudan, the DRC and Burundi.