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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

Silent Success

Despite being chased from their homes in the Central African Republic and losing their livelihoods, Mbororo refugees have survived by embracing a new way of life in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Mbororo, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders from Central African Republic, started fleeing their villages in waves in 2005, citing insecurity as well as relentless targeting by rebel groups and bandits who steal their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom.

They arrived in the East and Adamaoua provinces of Cameroon with nothing. Though impoverished, the host community welcomed the new arrivals and shared their scant resources. Despite this generosity, many refugees died of starvation or untreated illness.

Help arrived in 2007, when UNHCR and partner agencies began registering refugees, distributing food, digging and rehabilitating wells as well as building and supplying medical clinics and schools, which benefit refugees and the local community and promote harmony between them. The Mbororo were eager to learn a new trade and set up farming cooperatives. Though success didn't come immediately, many now make a living from their crops.

Mbororo refugees continue to arrive in Central African Republic - an average of 50 per month. The long-term goal is to increase refugees' self-reliance and reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.

Silent Success

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.
Central African Republic : Bangui Airport RefugePlay video

Central African Republic : Bangui Airport Refuge

UNHCR's High Commissioner António Guterres visits Central African Republic and meets internally displaced people in Bangui airport. He says the international community needs to give the CAR crisis the same focus as the emergencies in Syria and South Sudan.