Social Integration of Refugees Into the Host Communities Research Presentation Case Study: Congolese Refugees in Katwe, Kampala, Makindye Division
Author: KABURU EZEKIEL
Supervisor: Ika Lino
The growing burden of the refugee question facing Uganda is enormous; Uganda today has a refugee population of over 1.4 million refugees making Uganda the number one refugee hosting country in Africa and second in the world behind Turkey which hosts 3.5 million refugees (UNHCR 2018). The causes of the refugee crisis in great lakes region are diverse and interlinked in nature. Once these refugee populations are in the country of asylum, they do not live in isolation but live side by side with the indigenous people. The Ugandan government has been praised by the international community for having a progressive refugee policy which allows refugees to socially integrate within the host community, but credit should be given to the host communities who provide hospitable environment to these refugees. Refugees in Uganda live in both settlements and urban centers. Those who choose to live in settlement are cared for by Ugandan government and UNHCR with support from other partners, but for those who choose to live in urban centers are self-settled. With the UNHCR urban refugee policy 2009 of self-settlement, there is a knowledge gap about how these refugees socially integrate in urban centers where both the government and refugee service organizations have put less emphasis in. As a response to the apparent knowledge and research gap regarding social integration of urban refugees in Katwe, Kampala Uganda, I conducted a qualitative study involving Congolese refugees who have lived in Uganda for over five years. Using purposive and convenience sampling techniques I selected Congolese refugees and organization like Refugee Law Project and HIAS which work with urban refugees within Kampala respectively. The study explored the processes and experiences of social integration of refugees into the host communities in Katwe, putting in context, the nexus of refugee and host community coexistence, housing patterns, language and coping mechanisms as precursors to social integration. I analyzed the data collected in the fieldwork using classification and tabulation of data, the raw data was arranged into groups or classes on the basis of common characteristic and then editing and content analysis was done by identifying the common themes that emerged from the descriptions given by the respondents in answering the questions. Results from this study is presented in verbatim manner and it indicated that learning the local language Luganda is important in social integration process, this is because refugees do not live in isolation but live together with the nationals of which the Baganda are the majority. The study also found out that language alone is not enough for successful integration; refugees need to engage in business to be able to support their families, because there is little support for urban refugees when it comes to livelihood support and hence staying next to the city center which comes with both opportunity and challenges is viable to most of the refugees. The study indicates that dealing with the past experiences which forced refugees to flee their country of origin is also important in the social integration process. Effects of forced migration are both physical and psychological in nature and one cannot successfully integrate if she or he is still struggling with the past, seeking of Godís guidance through prayer is one way of dealing with the past but counseling and medical assistance to deal with both the medical and psychological wounds is another way of dealing with the past. One cannot fully socially integrate when he or she is still disturbed by the past. The results of this study therefore allude to the fact that social integration in urban areas is a process not an event, the government of Uganda and other partners dealing with the refugee question should put as much effort in social integration as they are putting with self-reliance project in the settlements. They should come up with a holistic refugee management policy which handles both the host community and the refugees because these two communities live side by in urban centers.