UNHCR warns against forcible returns to CAR amid violence, abuses

Briefing Notes, 30 April 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 April 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR has advised governments worldwide against forcible returns to the Central African Republic (CAR). This is in light of the current fluid and dangerous situation in CAR, including the wide prevalence of human rights violations and the grave and deteriorating humanitarian situation.

The return advisory was issued late on April 25. It stresses that under current circumstances many people fleeing CAR are likely to meet the OAU Convention and 1951 Convention criteria for refugee status.

The situation in CAR has worsened since December 2012 when Seleka forces launched a series of attacks from the north before taking over the capital, Bangui, in late March. In the wake of the offensive, targeted killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and recruitment of children have been widely reported. Rape, disappearances, kidnappings, as well as extortion and looting in Bangui and other parts of the country are also being reported. Humanitarian access to the people affected remains severely restricted.

The violence of recent months has seen some 173,000 people displaced internally, and almost 50,000 made refugees mainly fleeing to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (37,000) but also to Chad (5000) and Cameroon (2000).

Our aim through issuing this advisory is to see that humanitarian and asylum principles are upheld until conditions in CAR allow for safe and dignified returns. It is also important that asylum remain civilian in nature, and for this reason we are recommending that states exert caution to identify combatants and separate them from the refugee population.

Our advisory stresses that exclusion from refugee status may need to be looked into for some individuals, beyond those who are combatants. This would apply, for example, to people who may have been involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity in CAR.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards, on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, on mobile +41 79 249 3483

Read the Advisory: UNHCR Position on Returns to the Central African Republic (Refworld)

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
Central African Republic: Torn CommunitiesPlay video

Central African Republic: Torn Communities

For more than a year, inter-communal strife has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. But amid the violence, efforts are being made to promote reconciliation.