Kampala, Uganda – Ugandan Embassies and High Commissions abroad have started the process of registering and verifying Ugandans who are stranded due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) for possible evacuation and support. Uganda has 31 embassies and High commissions and 42 consulates.
A number of these have started reaching out to citizens whose return to Uganda was interrupted to register with them. Embassies in the United States of America, the Ugandan High Commission in London and the Ugandan Embassy in Tokyo, Japan among others have already put out a call for Ugandans.
In his Tuesday address, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni asked the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explore the options of helping Ugandans stranded abroad looking at the possibilities of evacuating them. Governments all over the world have restricted travels and are completely under a lockdown as a measure to curb the spread of COVID-19.
However, it is understood that Embassies have given the Ugandans short time to register. The Embassy in Japan is giving only two days. Teopista Kabahweza, who wrote the letter on behalf of the Charge D’Affairs on April, 16 says the submissions should come in not later than Saturday, April 18 so that they can send it to Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ambassador Mull S. Katende, the Uganda Ambassador to the United States says they are seeking to register and verify Ugandans stranded in the US, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean with the exception of Cuba.
In a memo dated April, 16, Katende says the individuals include students, research fellows, short term visitors and other non-immigrant visa holders of all categories whose travel plan was disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Ugandans are supposed to send to the embassies their contact details including name and residence, work place or institutional address in Uganda, current physical address and contact in the host country. They are also to send a copy of the bio data page of their passports, scanned page of the host country visa, copy of return ticket where available and particulars of current sponsoring person or institution. The embassy asks Ugandans to submit these details by April 24th.
“This exercise does not include Ugandans who have already settled in the United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean and had no plans to return to Uganda,” says Katende.
The same message has been passed to Ugandans stranded in The United Kingdom and Ireland with emphasis on only those who were planning to return and not those with settled status in the UK. The High Commission has asked the Ugandans to submit the information preferably by April 20th giving them only four days.
However several Ugandans stranded abroad have said that the days given like two days in Japan, a week for the UK is not enough for them as some of their colleagues might not have seen the communication. The embassies are working with the leadership of Uganda diaspora abroad.
Patrick Mugoya, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the deadlines are not cast in stone and they could receive even late responses. He says however he will take off time to speak to the embassies to ensure that they are flexible and extend more registration days.
He says that it is possibly true that some people have not seen the communication to date. Asked if the Ugandans would be evacuated, Mugoya said that the registration is for information if a decision is to be taken. He says they need to know the numbers, where are the Ugandans stranded and how many they are so that it informs any form of action.
COVID-19 cases around the world have reached 2 million people with 145,000 deaths in total.