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UNHCR urges governments against forcible returns to Central African Republic

News Stories, 30 April 2013

© UNHCR/F. Lejeune-Kaba
People who have fled from the Central African Republic mill in an area of Worobe camp in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

GENEVA, April 30 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has advised governments worldwide against forcibly returning people to the Central African Republic (CAR). This is in light of the current fluid and dangerous situation in the country, including the wide prevalence of human rights violations and the grave and deteriorating humanitarian situation.

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

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva that the situation in CAR had 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," he said, adding that "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 (5,000) and Cameroon (2,000).

"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 remains civilian in nature, and for this reason we are recommending that states exert caution to identify combatants and separate them from the refugee population," Edwards said.

"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," he added.

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Returnees in Myanmar

During the early 1990s, more than 250,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border into Bangladesh, citing human rights abuses by Myanmar's military government. In exile, refugees received shelter and assistance in 20 camps in the Cox's Bazaar region of Bangladesh. More than 230,000 of the Rohingya Muslims have returned since 1992, but about 22,000 still live in camps in Bangladesh. To promote stability in returnee communities in Myanmar and to help this group of re-integrate into their country, UNHCR and its partner agencies provide monitors to insure the protection and safety of the returnees as well as vocational training, income generation schemes, adult literacy programs and primary education.

Returnees in Myanmar

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

The escalating violence in Central African Republic (CAR) has caught everyone in its web, including refugees from countries such as Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For the Congolese living in places like the CAR capital, Bangui, or the town of Batalimo, home was just a short trip away across the Oubangui River. UNHCR earlier this year agreed to help those who wished to repatriate due to fear for their safety. The refugee agency has since mid-January facilitated the return home of hundreds of these refugees. The following photographs, taken earlier this month by UNHCR staff members Dalia Al Achi and Hugo Reichenberger, depict the repatriation of a group of 364 Congolese. The refugees portrayed were heading to the riverside town of Zongo in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Equateur province, where they spent a night in a transit centre before continuing to their hometowns. They were relieved to be leaving, and some were in poor health. The decision to return to the country they had fled during the years of civil war from 1996-2003 was not easy. Some 6,000 of the 17,000 Congolese refugees in Central African Republic have registered with UNHCR to go home.

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

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