Understanding Deportation Of Immigrants in Uganda
Although deportation has a long history in Uganda, it has only recently become something other than an exceptional practice, recognized by Ugandan law. The earliest record of an experience close to deportation was in early 1972 when president Iddi Amin Dada “expelled” Uganda’s Asian minority accusing them of sabotaging Uganda’s economy and encouraging corruption.
Many of the expellees were citizens of the United Kingdom and its Colonies with 27200 subsequently emigrating to the United Kingdom. Of the other refugees who were accounted for, 6000 went to Canada, 4500 refugees ended up in India and 2500 went to nearby Kenya and Pakistan. While contemporary studies have identified this as Uganda’s first notorious case of deportation, others still label it mere expulsion.
Deportation refers to forced repatriation or the forced removal of unwanted individuals or groups of people from a given territory. Different from exile and administrative removals, contemporary forms of deportation exclusively target non citizens like immigrants including refugees and asylum seekers, to return to their state or country of origin. Immigrants are persons who move to live permanently in foreign countries notably; a country not of his or her birth or where they are not native or possess citizenship.
The act of deportation doesn’t not occur in a vacuum devoid of interrelatedness. A thorough comprehension of the deportation process demands a thorough understanding of the asylum determination procedures in Uganda. Uganda has a long history as both a sender and receiver of refugees and asylum seekers in its location; the Great Lakes region of Africa. This places it at the Centre of one of the largest refugee filled areas in the world today. As per the UNHCR 2021 planning figures, 1.4million refugees and asylum seekers will receive protection and assistance in Uganda .
In Uganda, the process of deportation is provided for by the Uganda Citizenship and Immigration Control Act which makes provision for acquisition of citizenship of Uganda by refugees and asylum seekers pursuant to the Constitution, and also regulates and controls aliens in Uganda.
Deportation occurs when the authority ; in this case in Uganda is the minister of foreign and internal affairs; orders any prohibited immigrant or person whose presence in Uganda is unlawful; to be deported out of Uganda either indefinitely or for a specified period of time.
A deportation order takes effect the day it is signed by the minister. The minister has the power to revoke or vary a deportation order even after making it. A prohibited immigrant refers to one whose entry into Uganda is unlawful and these include destitute persons, drug traffickers or foreigners earning from such dealings, foreigners who refuse to accept medical examination after having been requested to do so upon entry, any person certified by a medical practitioner to be suffering from a contagious and infectious disease which may make his or her presence in Uganda harmful, any person against whom there is in force an order of deportation or whose presence and entry in Uganda was unlawful at point of entry.
It is imperative to note that any person who has not in his or her possession a valid passport issued to him or her by or on behalf of the government of the country to which he originates is also a prohibited immigrant per Ugandan law.
Following a deportation order signed by the minister, such an immigrant is required to be sent into lawful custody and if presented to court by an immigration officer, with pending deportation orders, he is required to be in lawful custody not exceeding a period of two months.
An immigrant desirous of appealing a deportation order by a minister can do so within fifteen days after such order is given, to the registrar of the High court of Uganda. At the high Court, the execution of the deportation order will be stayed pending the decision of the High Court. Once not satisfied with the High Courts decision, an immigrant can still appeal the same to the Court of Appeal.
A person against whom a deportation order is made will then be deported to the country from which he came from, a country he or she agrees to be deported to, or to a country willing to receive him or her. Immigration officers are further vested with the power to arrest without a warrant, and detain persons who enter Uganda in transit to their counties of origin, after having been deported by other countries.
Today, persons entering Uganda without proper documentation are at first instance arrested and detained as illegal or prohibited immigrants. Certain nationalities such as Rwandese and persons from Arab and Islamist States like Somalia and Iran are immediately regarded as security threats to the country by security agents and the immigration office and thus denied the right to seek asylum. Once arrested, the police and immigration officers are quick to have the suspect arraigned in court and charged for violating immigration laws, thus warranting a deportation.
While there is need to address discrepancies in the deportation system of foreign immigrants from Uganda, there is need of paying extra attention to Ugandan citizens deported from other jurisdictions. The main problems faced during the period of deportation and transit of Deported Ugandans range from torture while in transit, to medical negligence, violence and cruel treatment dispensed by escorts of such deportees all the way to Entebbe international Airport.
Reintegration of the deported persons and their right to privacy especially away from notorious media houses remains a point in focus too.