This report provides accurate, documented data on the urban refugees and migrant population living in the Central Division of Arua, Uganda.

Located in Uganda’s West Nile region near the borders with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Arua is a commercial hub, transit centre, and destination for involuntary migrants fleeing conflict and seeking a better future. 

The city has experienced a large influx of refugees, many of whom settled independently and are not recognised under Uganda’s Refugee Act, which only recognises refugees living in Kampala.

That meant Arua did not have accurate information on how many refugees were living in the city, making it difficult to plan and budget for services. And since the national government only includes Ugandan nationals in the census, Arua was receiving a fraction of the funding needed to provide services to all its residents. 

Cities Alliance brought together a consortium that included the AVSI Foundation, Arua city, and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the government agency mandated to collect and coordinate data in Uganda, to produce an accurate census of refugees and migrants in Arua’s Central Division. 

UBOS supported the development of census instruments, including computer-assisted personal interview systems, Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping, training of enumerators, data collection, and support visits to migrant households. 

With accurate population information, Arua city can guide informed policy planning for better migration management, advocate for greater resource allocation, and identify opportunities for socio-economic interventions to foster self-reliance among migrants. It can also serve as an example for cities that host large numbers of refugees.

Arua City Central Division Census of Migrants and Host Communities documents the findings of the census and confirms that there are large numbers of refugees living in Arua Central Division: 7,015 urban refugees out of a population of 67,810 who stated their nationality and disclosed their migrant status.

It also offers recommendations for improving migration management. At the national level, the report suggests expanding the Urban Refugee Policy to include refugees beyond Kampala and enacting a migration policy that provides more support to migrants in terms of labour, settlement, and assistance.  

At the local level, the report recommends establishing a local government refugee desk that can provide legal support, registration, and recognition services for migrants. It also calls for expanding the census to include the other division of Arua, Ayivu, which was not included in the project.

The project is part of the Cities Alliance Migration programme, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).