District officials have caught residents of Lamwo District, Uganda disguising themselves as South Sudan refugees in order to access relief items being handed out.
The locals who were discovered on site have been advised to leave the settlement camps, so that aid can be given to the “very needy”.
Lamwo District currently holds around 5,000 South Sudanese refugees distributed between the Palabek Ogili, Palabek Kal and Palabek Gem settlement camps.
The refugees fled South Sudan after being caught up in renewed conflict between government forces and several militia groups.
The government, through the Office of the Prime Minister and humanitarian aid agency United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have allocated each refugee household a 30×30 metre piece of land for setting up a shelter and another 30×30 metre for small farming. Other items given to the refugees include saucepans, jerrycans, tarpaulin, cups, plates, cooking oil, solar lights, blankets, mosquito nets and food – local media reports.
The Palabek Settlement Camp commandant, Mr David Wangwe, told local media that the items given to the refugees have tempted the locals to disguise as refugees in order to benefit from the same.
However, Ms Agnes Lamunu, one of the locals in the area, said that those who disguise themselves as refugees are desperately looking for food since most of them have had poor harvests due to the prolonged dry spell that hit the district.
It is thought that recent instability in the neighbourhood has also pushed locals to act in such a way.
A plea was made to locals to “dissuade themselves from being materialistic”, from Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, Mr Jonathan Rutabingwa.
“The locals should know that it’s illegal and criminal for them to call themselves refugees yet they are not. We have now tightened screening at the centre to avoid locals from taking away what is meant for the refugees,” he said.
In November 2016, Uganda alerted the world by revealing that at least 1.3 million people in various parts of the country were in need of food aid urgently after a dry spell ruined harvests.