U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Congo-Kinshasa

Refoulement/Physical Protection

In 2006, there were no reports of refoulement from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa).

The government could not provide security for refugees. Armed members of the Rwandan Interahamwe and former Rwandan soldiers continued to take Rwandan refugees hostage in many villages in the forest areas of North and South Kivu provinces.

Congo-Kinshasa was party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), its 1967 Protocol, and the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (African Refugee Convention) without reservation. The 2006 Constitution recognized the right of asylum, provided that the Government accord it to persons fearing persecution because of "their opinion, their belief, their racial, tribal, ethnic, or linguistic group membership, or their action in favor of democracy and in defense of human rights and the rights of peoples," and forbade refoulement. It also declared treaties to be higher in legal authority than local statutes. The 2002 Refugee Law applied the persecution-based refugee definition of the 1951 Convention and the more general one of the African Refugee Convention, prohibiting refoulement under either. The Law required asylum seekers to present themselves to local authorities within 30 days of entry into the country but the Government did not apply this. The Law created a National Commission for Refugees (NCR) and an Appeals Commission in the Ministry of Interior to decide asylum cases and appeals, each with a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) consulting in its deliberations. It required the NCR to give rejected applicants written decisions with sufficient information upon which to appeal. The Law prohibited any member of the NCR from deliberating on the Appeals Commission. It required appellants to appear before the Commission in person, permitted assistance of counsel and interpretation at the applicants' expense, and allowed them to remain in the country until it issued a final decision. Applicants could also appeal decisions of the Appeals Commission in court.

The Constitution also explicitly provided for the protection of all foreigners legally in the country and granted them the same nonpolitical rights and liberties as Congolese, subject to the reciprocity of their governments toward Congolese. The Constitution also forbade any individual or group to use the territory as a base for terrorism or subversion against any government.

About 24,400 Angolan refugees repatriated, about 15,900 of them with UNHCR's help. In January, the Government signed a tripartite repatriation agreement with Sudan and UNHCR allowing for the return of Sudanese refugees, but, in March, insecurity in southern Sudan forced UNHCR to delay repatriation. About 6,700 Sudanese refugees repatriated, about 2,000 of them with UNHCR's help, along with about 5,000 Ugandans, 4,400 refugees from the Republic of Congo, and 3,900 Rwandans. One of the Rwandans said that they had tried to return many times, but Rwandan rebels had blocked their return. About 1,300 Burundian refugees also repatriated.

Detention/Access to Courts

Police sometimes detained those with refugee status documentation, and refugees traveling without documents were also subject to short-term detention. There were also some reports that the Government detained refugees or asylum seekers for a short time for illegal entry or presence.

The 2002 Refugee Law mandated that the Ministry of Interior, through UNHCR, issue free refugee identity cards valid for two years, renewable, and equivalent to residence cards for immigrants. UNHCR issued these cards with photographs to each adult refugee. The photos of minor children were included in the same document as either the mother or father. The Refugee Law also entitled refugees and their family members to birth, death, and marriage certificates on the same conditions as nationals.

The 2006 Constitution reserved to nationals its guarantees of equality before the law and equal protection of the law but not its due process protections in criminal matters, and the Refugee Law granted refugees the same access to courts as nationals.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

The 2002 Refugee Law granted recognized refugees the same freedom of movement as nationals. In zones of continuing conflict and instability, refugees had to obtain a one-time travel authorization from local authorities. Most Angolan refugees lived integrated among Congolese villagers.

The 2006 Constitution extended to all the rights of freedom of movement and choice of residence.

The Refugee Law required the Government to issue refugees who asked for them free, renewable international travel documents. In practice, applicants had to demonstrate specific reasons for travel, such as resettlement offers, need for medical evacuation, enrollment plans at an educational institution, or evidence of imminent plans for travel, such as plane tickets.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

The 2002 Refugee Law granted recognized refugees the same right to professional employment as nationals, but a 1986 decree reserved certain professions for nationals. In urban and rural regions, refugees engaged in unofficial labor such as farming, trading, tailoring, and mechanical repair and did not require special authorization.

The 2006 Constitution reserved to nationals the right to work. It recognized the right to organize and to strike, generally, but provided only for citizens the right to form and join unions.

Refugees could own property for farming, operate businesses, and own bank accounts although there were complaints of petty extortion by officials. The Constitution expressly extended to foreigners its protection of investment and private enterprise, and did not reserve to citizens its protection of private property.

Public Relief and Education

The 2006 Constitution did not restrict to citizens its rights to food security, health, potable water, decent housing, and electricity. The 2002 Refugee Law granted refugees the right to social assistance, health services, and education on par with nationals, charging NCR with supporting their needs in housing, food, health, and education, according to its means and with the help of national and international organizations. The 2003 decree mandated that the Government, according to its means, meet all refugee needs, including food, lodging, health, and education.

Refugees received medical services from UN agencies. Refugee children had access to education, which the Constitution guaranteed to all persons. Many of the country's street children were refugees.

The Government granted UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies access to refugees. The 2002 Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Congo-Kinshasa prepared for international donors mentioned refugees as causes, in the east, of deforestation and the destruction of fauna in the wildlife parks. It did not however, include them in any development plans.


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