By Stephen Kalema

A total of 1.1million refugees have been registered in the just concluded Bio-metric Verification exercise.

According to the joint statement released on Monday by both Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the exercise captured both refugees and all asylum-seekers in Uganda.  The exercise opened in March and was concluded on October 24 in the last settlements of Bidibidi and Kampala.

It has run for over eight months, conducted by both teams from OPM and UNHCR using six teams operating concurrently in refugee settlements in Uganda. Over 400 staff participated in this exercise moving across more than 68 verification sites set up by UNHCR and World Food Programme (WFP). The programme started under the directives of Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Filipo Grandi. It was aimed at auditing and establishing the definite number of refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda

According to statement, each verification exercise conducted in any refugee there was always reductions in numbers they expected. Many factors contribute to these reductions, including movement around the country or beyond.

“There were also some cases of multiple registrations by refugees at the height of the emergency influxes of South Sudanese refugees between mid-2016 and mid-2017, when registration systems were sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer number and speed of arrivals. These cases were identified and removed from the database,” reads the statement.

On why there were few refugees registered yet before the commencement of this exercise the UN agency had placed the number refugees from South Sudan alone to 1.1million, UNHCR and OPM stressed that there are number of factors responsible for fewer registered refugees.

Under the new system, each person receiving assistance is confirmed against biometric data collection in the verification exercise. These procedures reduce risks of fraud, ensuring that assistance is well managed and provided only to verified, eligible refugees and asylum-seekers.

According UNHCR and OPM as soon as verification was completed in settlements than WFP and UNHCR rolled out the new food assistance collection procedures.