Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Cameroon

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 14 June 2006
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Cameroon , 14 June 2006, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reports of refoulement in 2005. In April, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a tripartite agreement with Cameroon and Nigeria providing for the voluntary repatriation of 12,500 out of 17,000 Muslim Fulani refugees from Nigeria who had arrived in Taraba State in 2002. As of September, some 7,500 refugees had returned "under very good and humanitarian conditions" according to UNHCR. UNHCR expected another 2,500 to return by the end of the year, leaving 2,500 to return in 2006. UNHCR planned to integrate those remaining through a local settlement program. Early in the year, some 6,500 refugees from Central African Republic (CAR), mainly ethnic Mbororo cattle herders, fled to Adamaoua and Est provinces. In March, after Canada agreed to accept ten vulnerable families for resettlement, hundreds of demonstrators outside UNHCR's office protested the agency's refusal to grant them refugee status and resettlement.

In July, the National Assembly passed a new law to implement Cameroon's ratification of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, including the its broader definition of refugee, which included those fleeing "events seriously disturbing public order." The new law allowed expulsion of refugees only on grounds of national security or public order, pursuant to a lawful decision, and with 72 hours notice to UNHCR, during which time the agency could look for other countries of asylum to receive them.

The new law required asylum seekers to report to authorities within 15 days of entry, at which time authorities would prepare a comprehensive report, issue applicants two-month, non-renewable 'safe-conduct' passes, and send the report to a Refugee Status Eligibility Commission. The law also called for a Refugee Appeals Board but decisions of neither body were subject to appeal in ordinary courts.

Detention/Access to Courts

Police conducted raids in immigrant Nigerian and Chadian communities, extorting money from those without regular resident permits and arbitrarily arresting foreigners not possessing identity cards. Security forces commonly tortured, beat, or abused detainees, holding them in overcrowded and unsanitary prisons for prolonged periods without charges, trials, lawyers, or adequate medical treatment.

According to local human rights associations, refugees did not always have identity cards because neither the Government nor UNHCR issued them. Between 2001 and 2003, UNHCR had closed its office because of budget cuts. Politicians asserted that the new law, which provided for refugee cards and travel documents, would "check the arbitrary arrests and detentions of 'real' refugees." The law prohibited punishment of refugees for illegal entry or presence if they came directly from a country of threat and presented themselves "without delay," but did allow confinement of asylum seekers for investigation for as long as 72 hours.

The Cameroonian Criminal Investigation Department received about a dozen complaints from refugees that staff of UNHCR and its implementing partner, Cameroonian Red Cross, solicited sex and money to process asylum applications.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Refugees in Cameroon did not live in camps. Chadian refugees lived among local villagers and settlements in the north as well as in Yaounde and Douala. Nigerians settled in the northwest, where they roamed freely with their cattle. UNHCR's representative thanked the Government for its flexibility "as it is hard to imagine how these semi-nomadic people, who are accustomed to traveling great distances so their livestock could graze, would have made it had they been parked in camps."

Security forces routinely restricted movement of people throughout the territory whether or not they were refugees, although the new law purported to offer both asylum seekers and refugees freedom of movement.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The new law purported to grant refugees and nationals the same wage-earning rights. Most refugees in the suburbs of Yaounde and Douala worked in the informal sector without the protection of labor or social security laws. Others farmed or herded livestock with local communities in rural areas. According to UNHCR, the Mbororo refugees were able to bring their surviving livestock with them, support themselves, and integrate well into the host community.

Public Relief and Education

The Government did not impede humanitarian agencies assisting refugees. The new law provided both the right to education and the right to social and public assistance, stating that refugees "shall receive the same treatment as nationals as concerns the right to education, school and university registration fees, and charges for the students' welfare service." UNHCR planned to develop a local settlement program for refugees in urban areas in 2006 that would provide medical services, education, and vocational training. UNHCR also planned farming, herding, and sanitation projects for Nigerian refugees unwilling to return. Cameroon did not include refugees in the latest Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper it prepared for international development donors in April 2003.

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