With more than 1.4 million refugees, Uganda is the third-largest refugee-hosting country in the world. Arua Municipality, in the north of Uganda, is situated in Uganda’s West Nile region, approximately 12 km from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and 50 km from the boundary with South Sudan. Arua has an estimated total population of 61,962. Due to its location, Arua has become a hub for trade and commerce within the West Nile region as well as with both the DRC and South Sudan. This proximity to international borders has also brought Arua an influx of involuntary migrants seeking access to social services, livelihoods, and support.
Arua Municipality estimates that self-settled refugees make up 24% of its total population. These migrants are not accurately documented by municipal authorities, and they are not included in the census.
This situation makes it very difficult for the city to adequately plan for all its residents at the municipal level and is straining Arua’s ability to provide services to its host communities. With accurate data, Arua can approach the central government for additional fiscal transfers to provide more adequate social services and opportunities for both migrants and host communities.
We need to have planned migration, not unplanned migration. Planned migration will make us organise ourselves and make sure host and migrant communities benefit from it. We are talking about refugees because normally they are not captured in our budgets, which limits the services we can provide to the refugees and the host communities ... A lot is being done for refugees in districts but not for those in cities. We need a deliberate effort to ensure that urban refugees are captured in our programmes.
The project titled Strengthening Mechanisms for Receiving, Managing and Integrating Involuntary Migrants Within the Municipal Council (Arua, Uganda), under the Cities Alliance Cities and Migration Programme, aims to strengthen the structural and institutional mechanisms for reception, management, and integration of involuntary migrants in Arua Municipal Council. It includes collecting accurate data on Arua Municipality’s population to inform planning; using mechanisms such as municipal and division development forums to promote dialogue and build capacity among all stakeholders; and partnering with financial institutions to help migrants and host communities become more self-reliant and improve their livelihoods.
Commemorated annually on 31 October, this year's World Cities Day is highlighting the value and importance of close-knit communities. The day furthermore recognizes the significance of urban basic services as a foundation for the overall social and economic development.