U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Cameroon
|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 - Cameroon, 11 July 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4696387b17.html [accessed 18 December 2013]|
There were no reports of refoulement in 2006.
The influx of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) increased from about 3,000 at the end of 2005 to about 20,400 at the end of 2006. The majority were ethnic Mbororo shepherds who settled in the Adamaoua and East Provinces bordering CAR. The Government recognized them as prima facie refugees.
Rebel groups and armed bandits along the Cameroon-CAR border areas assaulted, kidnapped, and robbed Mbororo refugees almost weekly since 2004. The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization deployed security forces to escort representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and to protect the local population and the refugees.
The Government was still not involved in status determination procedures, and UNHCR heard claims and made decisions. Asylum seekers registered through the UNHCR office in Yaoundé and the Cameroonian Red Cross (CRC), UNHCR's operational partner. Applicants received appointment slips for eligibility interviews and waited up to five months for these interviews. Rejected applicants had one month to appeal UNHCR's decision and received hearings within three months of filing their appeals. In 2006, UNHCR received about 3,800 asylum applications, approving about 1,400. UNHCR planned to assist the Government in setting up a National Eligibility Committee to assume responsibility for the refugee status determination process and to reduce the backlog of about 6,000 asylum requests in 2007. In June, asylum seekers demonstrated in Douala, protesting delays in the distribution of asylum request forms.
Cameroon was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, without reservation, its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Cameroon's Refugee Law applied the definitions of refugee found in both Conventions and prohibited the refoulement of either refugees or asylum seekers for reasons other than national security and public order, pursuant to a lawful decision, and giving 72-hour notice to UNHCR. According to the law, asylum seekers had to apply within 15 days of entry and applications could be inadmissible if the applicant had passed through a country of first asylum where protection was available, but UNHCR did not apply these restrictions. The law allowed rejected applicants to appeal within 30 days of notification but did not allow decisions to be reviewed in ordinary courts.
Detention/Access to Courts
Authorities did not detain any refugees for illegal entry, presence, movement, or work, although about once a week police and gendarmes detained refugees and asylum seekers failing to recognize UNHCR identity documents. Police occasionally held refugees, as they did citizens, longer than the 72 hours allowed by law for criminal investigations. The U.S. State Department described prison conditions during the year as "harsh and life-threatening," including beating, stripping, and confinement to overcrowded and unsanitary cells. UNHCR monitored the detention conditions of refugees and asylum seekers. Detainees were able to challenge their detention before independent tribunals with representation of counsel at their own expense.
Cameroon did not punish asylum seekers for illegal entry, provided they came directly from a country of threat and presented themselves immediately to the authorities, but they could be detained for investigation for three days. The Refugee Law entitled them to two-month, non-renewable 'safe-conduct' passes.
The law provided for the issuance of refugee identity cards, but the Government stopped issuing them in 1994. UNHCR issued certificates to refugees and asylum seekers over the age of 18 in urban areas within six days of registration, and authorities generally recognized these documents. In rural areas, however, some authorities were unfamiliar with the documents and harassed their bearers. Prima facie refugees received only ration cards, which did not identify them. Asylum applicants' appointment slips carried no photographs establishing the identity of the bearer, and police occasionally confiscated them. All persons were required to carry identification cards. In sweeps and at pervasive immigration enforcement checkpoints and roadblocks, police frequently arrested, beat, and extorted money from those with no documentation.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
There were no camps in Cameroon, but police and gendarmes in the East and Adamaoua Provinces extorted money from prima facie refugees who did not possess refugee certificates when they tried to move about. Registered refugees and asylum seekers with identity documents were generally free to travel throughout the country and settle where they pleased, but the Government required asylum seekers to notify immigration authorities of any change of address.
The Refugee Law gave refugees the right to international travel documents, but the Government did not issue them. UNHCR issued them to refugees it recognized under its mandate but not to prima facie refugees. This seriously impeded the 15,000 Mbororo refugees who had to move their cattle seasonally for grazing.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
Prima facie refugees and asylum seekers could not legally work. The Refugee Law granted registered refugees the right to work, to own and transfer property, and to practice professions on par with nationals. Others were covered by the 1997 Entry and Residence Law, which required a work contract initialed by the Minister of Labor and a medical certificate by an approved doctor prior to arrival. The 1997 law also required anyone wishing to practice a profession or engage in industrial, agricultural, pastoral, commercial, craft, or artistic activities to have an entry visa of the required duration, and the authorities had to authorize the particular profession or activity. To obtain work permits, applicants had to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pay fees. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded the file to the Ministry of Labor, which issued the permits about three months later.
Registered refugees could engage in business and obtain almost all necessary licenses and permits on par with nationals, but no foreigner could work in the national civil services or state enterprises.
Asylum applicants with only appointment slips could conduct bank transactions.
Public Relief and Education
The Government cooperated with UNHCR and humanitarian agencies assisting refugees. The Refugee Law granted refugees education and public relief on par with nationals.
UNHCR distributed nonfood items to the neediest of some 5,000 Mbororo refugees who had lost their cattle in flight from CAR and to a small number of Gbaya farmers and vaccinated their children under five. UNICEF and the Government distributed protein biscuits to Mbororo children suffering from malnutrition.
A CRC-UNHCR project gave a few registered refugees in urban areas about $50 monthly for family allowance, medical services, and training tuition and low-cost (about $0.50) health exams, including medicine. UNHCR paid for primary education for refugees in urban areas in the same schools as nationals.
Cameroon did not include refugees in the 2003 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper it prepared for international donors.