Uganda forcibly returned 1,700 Rwandans seeking shelter in the East African country this week, breaking international norms covering the treatment of refugees, the United Nations refugees agency said on Friday.
UNHCR deplores Wednesday's operation and had unsuccessfully called on Uganda to halt it, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
"UNHCR was very broadly aware of an agreement between the two governments to return asylum seekers who had failed to be recognised as refugees," she told a briefing.
"However, we were not informed of the timing and the specific brutal nature of this operation. In fact UNHCR staff who were present in the settlements were asked to leave prior to the operation," she said.
UNHCR said refugees or asylum seekers whose applications have not been dealt with should only be returned voluntarily and in conditions of safety and dignity.
It called on Kampala not to carry out any further operations breaking national and international refugee law.
In one centre asylum-seekers were assembled on the pretext that they were to be informed of the results of their claims.
Panic broke out when police intervened, shots were fired and people were forced on to trucks and driven across the border in the middle of the night, she said.
In another location, people were called to a World Food Programme centre on the pretext of a distribution, then surrounded by police and armed men. Those who did not escape were forced on to trucks and many could not take personal belongings.
Two men who jumped off trucks en route to Rwanda died, many children were separated from their parents, several people not deported were injured, including six pregnant women, she said.
UNHCR said a total of 3,320 Rwandans had sought asylum in Uganda, but 98 percent had their requests rejected, giving rise to fears that the applications were not being handled correctly.
Fleming was unable to give the ethnic identity of the refugees who had been forcibly returned. Thousands of people fled Rwanda after the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 ethnic Hutu and moderate Tutsi were killed.
Uganda will tighten internal security to keep out foreigners intent on further attacks, President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday after coordinated bomb attacks in Kampala last Sunday that killed 73 people and were claimed by Islamist militants. objecting to Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 16 Temmuz 2010, 17:26