South Sudanese refugees at Palabek Refugee Settlement in Palabek Ogili Subcounty in Lamwo District.
More South Sudan refugees continue to enter Lamwo District from volatile South Sudan despite the closure of the main border points.
Ugandan borders have remained closed for asylum seekers since March last year following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
But both the district and Office of the Prime Minister officials reveal that they are registering a spontaneous influx of South Sudan refugees into the district over the past months.
Julius Kamuza, the Palabek Refugee Settlement Commandant says that their investigation shows those entering are sneaking through illegal entry points since the main border points are closed.
He says the majority of the new arrivals are women and children who are escaping from instability and hunger due to food shortages back home.
Kamuza says on average, they have been receiving between 50 to 70 South Sudan refugees who cross from porous border points from the neighbouring Eastern Equatorial state into Lamwo District.
Kamuza says once the refugees report at the settlement, they are interrogated to understand their true identities adding that those found to be genuine refugees are first tested for covid-19 before being registered for settlement.
Between June to August this year, a total of 322 new South Sudan refugees were registered at Palabek Refugee settlement according to statistics from the Office of the Prime Minister. The largest arrival was registered between July and August when a total of 294 refugees entered the district via porous border points.
Christopher Omal, Palabek Ogili Sub-county LCIII Chairperson says that the influx of refugees follows instability in neighbouring South Sudan.
He however says the development is a security threat in the sub-county and the district as a whole and implored security personnel to improve their networks on illegal border points.
District leaders also reveal that some of the refugees who have already been settled have been sneaking back home through the illegal border points.
For instance, by the end of June this year, the South Sudanese refugee population at Palabek Refugee Settlement had dropped from 57,102 to 56,775 according to data from the Office of the Prime Minister-OPM.
Godfrey Benaiza Oroma, the Palabek Kal Town Council Town Clerk attributes the unregulated entry and exit of the refuges to the common border points which host the communities of Uganda and South Sudan who share almost a similar culture.
He notes that most of the refugees illegally entering are the Pajok tribesmen who either have farmlands in Uganda or back home in South Sudan adding that they also share similar language and identity with their counterparts the Acholi in Lamwo District.
He however says the persistent entry and exit through illegal border points by the refugees poses a great threat to the covid-19 fight in Lamwo District.
Efforts to get comments from Nabinson Kidega, Lamwo Resident District Commissioner on the influx of the refugees by press time were futile.
Lamwo District has four designated entry points with neighbouring South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State. They are Waligo, Aweno Olwiyo, Madi-opei, and Ngomoromo.
As of September 30 this year, the district hosts a total of 58,194 South Sudan refugees in Palabek Refugee Settlement in Palabek Ogili Sub-county.