U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Central African Republic
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||11 July 2007|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Central African Republic, 11 July 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4696387c17.html [accessed 13 July 2014]|
There were no reports of refoulement during 2006, but unknown, uniformed assailants beat, stabbed, and shot foreigners, particularly those from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa). No refugees died, but armed attackers doused one refugee with fuel and forced him into his house before setting it on fire. In October, authorities bound a Sudanese refugee accused of theft so tightly that medical service providers had to amputate one of his hands and one finger from the other hand.
CAR was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, without reservations. The 1990 Constitution provided that ratified treaties were a higher source of authority than local laws. The country had no law defining refugee status, but a 1983 ordinance established a National Refugee Commission (NRC) under the Ministry of Interior, which granted asylum in accordance with the conventions CAR had ratified.
Simple declarations of nationality and need and presentation of identity documents, where available, rendered applications admissible. The NRC's protection section conducted preliminary interviews and issued attestations of asylum seeker status. An eligibility committee interviewed applicants and decided the cases with a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) observing. According to the 1983 Ministerial Decree implementing the Ordinance, rejected applicants could appeal to the administrative courts. In practice, however, the eligibility committee heard appeals of the applications it had rejected in the first instance.
In 2006, the Government received about 530 asylum applications. The eligibility committee decided about 370, approving about 260 in the first instance and rejecting about 30. It deferred some 70 applications for further clarification.
An estimated 12,900 refugees repatriated, including some 12,100 Sudanese, 700 Congolese, and 56 Angolans. In February, UNHCR and the Governments of Sudan and CAR concluded an agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees. In March, however, UNHCR suspended repatriations after gunmen attacked its compound near Yei, Sudan, killed a local guard, and critically wounded an international staff member and another guard. In addition, heavy fighting broke out in Yambio, Sudan, forcing the evacuation of UNHCR and staff from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Government opened a humanitarian corridor to allow the resumption of the repatriations in December but also taxed Sudanese returnees at the Bazangi border crossing, discouraging further repatriations. Finland resettled two refugees. The United States resettled 29.
Detention/Access to Courts
During the year, authorities illegally arrested at least 40 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly on documentation or movement grounds. There were at least 10 cases of prolonged detention, some in the Office for the Repression of Banditry – a facility notorious for torture, prolonged detention without charges, and, the Government acknowledged, extrajudicial executions – and five refugees and asylum seekers remained in detention at year's end. In October, authorities arrested several Sudanese and Chadian refugees in connection with attacks on the northeastern town of Birao.
The Government informed UNHCR when it detained refugees or asylum seekers, and UNHCR worked informally with the International Committee of the Red Cross to monitor detention in military camps and penitentiaries in the capital, Bangui. Refugees generally had access to counsel, but the law did not guarantee this during often lengthy pretrial investigations. UNHCR secured the release of some detainees but had difficulty when the arrests were for security reasons.
UNHCR and NRC issued notifications of the status of asylum seekers or refugees, but these notifications lacked the legal recognition of refugee identity cards. Refugees were entitled to such cards but generally had to wait months to receive them. The Government did not generally issue identity cards to refugees in rural areas, but they could apply for these or passes in case of domestic travel.
Refugees had access to courts and, with legal help from UNHCR, had their rights recognized in property and civil cases. The procedures of the Labor Inspection Office and the Labor Court, however, were lengthy and costly and it was extremely difficult for refugees to prevail against an employer.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
Security officials harassed refugees at domestic checkpoints, sometimes accusing them of possessing false documents and compelling them to pay bribes to avoid detention. Documented refugees were free to move about the country but those without identity cards had to apply for domestic travel passes from the NRC or the nearest police station.
There were no camps in CAR, but there were settlements in Mboki for Sudanese refugees, and in Molangue for Congolese. Refugees could reside where they chose but the Government required them to register and report any changes of address.
UNHCR decided all requests for international travel documents and generally approved them in cases where refugees presented reasons of professional or family need. The NRC issued the documents, which were valid for three years and renewable. The NRC also issued safe-conduct passes to refugees for travel to countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon).
Right to Earn a Livelihood
CAR allowed refugees to work. Many, however, worked in the informal sector without recourse in cases of nonpayment of salaries, pensions, and other benefits.
A 1985 ordinance required foreigners to have prior approval to practice many professions. Licenses were particularly difficult for refugees to obtain because of administrative obstacles including a requirement of proof from the authorities of their country of origin that they had no criminal record.
Refugees had the legal right to own and transfer properties and business premises, but security forces routinely extorted their commercial activities. They could open bank accounts with their refugee cards, but UNHCR often had to issue letters explaining the rights conferred by these cards. Refugees in Molangue raised crops for markets.
Public Relief and Education
The Government cooperated with UNHCR and humanitarian organizations but controlled little of the country. Access to refugees was difficult due to the activities and presence of armed groups. The Government required UN aid workers to travel with government armed escorts that were targets for rebel ambush and limited their access to the neediest people. UNHCR, with the support of the NRC, Médecins sans Frontières-Spain, Oxfam Quebec, and Africare, among other NGOs, provided basic assistance, including health and education, to Sudanese refugees in the Mboki settlement. UNHCR also assisted some 700 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa in the Molangue settlement and an estimated 5,500 refugees in the capital, Bangui, including limited cash grants to the neediest of them.
Refugees were entitled to education and social security rights equal to that of citizens. The NRC issued supplementary attestations to refugees who could not access health and educational institutions because they did not possess birth certificates.
The Ministry of Economy, Planning and International Cooperation drafted a new Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for international donors for 2007 to 2009 but did not include refugees.