U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Congo-Brazzaville
|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 - Congo-Brazzaville , 14 June 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4496ad083e.html [accessed 30 May 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
There were no reports of refoulement from the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) during the year. The Refugee Status Eligibility Commission (RSEC) decided asylum claims, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) providing a voting member of the six-member panel. RSEC decided roughly 230 cases during 2005 with an acceptance rate of 11 percent. Within 30 days of denial, asylum seekers could appeal to the six-member Refugee Appeal Commission, on which UNHCR also had a voting member. Those asylum seekers with pending claims generally received temporary authorization to remain in the country.
An auxiliary police officer shot and killed one refugee from whom he was trying to extort money. The Government arrested the officer and initiated prosecution, but the case did not move forward because of the limited capacity of the judicial system.
Article 15 of the Constitution granted the right to asylum, and a 2001 Resolution codified the protections against refoulement of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.
A group of 560 Mobutu-era soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) staged a sit-in protest demanding repatriation in October, closing off river traffic between Brazzaville and Kinshasa. Some of them had applied for refugee status, but the Government postponed deciding their cases pending implementation of a bilateral agreement with Congo-Kinshasa. In November, the ex-soldiers repatriated with assistance from the International Organization for Migration. During the year, 7,000 refugees returned to Congo-Kinshasa with UNHCR assistance.
Detention/Access to Courts
The Government did not systematically detain refugees or asylum seekers, but local police occasionally arrested them – either because they were unfamiliar with the documents refugees carried or because they were seeking bribes. UNHCR intervened on the refugees' behalf and, with government support, secured their release.
The Government did not detain asylum seekers while individual refugee status determinations were in progress and UNHCR aided many who were awaiting decisions. The 2001 Resolution specifically forbade the detention or imprisonment of refugees and asylum seekers for illegal entry and required the Government, acting through UNHCR, to give refugees free, renewable, five-year identity cards. The Government issued all registered refugees in urban areas cards and planned to complete distribution to refugees in rural areas, where poor roads complicated the delivery, by mid-2006.
The Constitution, through Articles 21 and 42, provided the right to a fair trial to refugees, but the judiciary was overburdened, poorly funded, and subject to political influence, bribery, and corruption.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
There were no reports that the Government imposed restrictions on refugees' movement, but corrupt or misinformed local officials often demanded bribes or payment from travelers.
The 2001 Resolution stated that the Government should issue refugee identity cards along with free refugee travel permits. In practice, refugees with either identity or registration cards were able to move about the country freely and choose their place of residence. About 50,000 refugees lived in small rural settlements scattered in the northeast along a 300-mile (500 km) stretch of the Ubangui and Congo Rivers. These refugees frequently crossed the border into Congo-Kinshasa or the Central African Republic (CAR).
Right to Earn a Livelihood
The 2001 Resolution accorded refugees the right to work on par with nationals. Article 17 of the Constitution guaranteed refugees the right to own property, and Article 42 extended that guarantee to all refugees by granting foreigners the same rights as nationals. In practice, refugees with identity cards could trade, farm, fish, open businesses, or seek employment with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or private companies, such as a timber company in the northeast region. At the local level, local villagers sometimes felt threatened by competition from refugees and harassed or prevented them from fishing, working, or trading. In the northeast, refugees also crossed the Ubangui River into Congo-Kinshasa or traveled north to Bangui, CAR, to trade or farm.
Public Relief and Education
The 2001 Resolution accorded refugees the same rights as nationals with respect to public education and social and health services. Refugees living in UNHCR-assisted rural settlements received primary education and public health services, much of which did not exist before UNHCR and NGOs established them to aid the refugees. Those living in the northern region near Betou also received secondary education, but the program ended in 2005. The Government permitted UNHCR to distribute humanitarian aid to refugee populations but provided little support or funding for refugee aid itself.