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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - Central Africa and the Great Lakes

| Overview |

Working environment

The countries in the Central Africa and the Great Lakes subregion pursued their efforts towards socio-economic development and institutional stability in 2013. Some, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), were hampered by internal conflicts and widespread violence. Others, including Burundi, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo (Congo), faced stagnant economies, high unemployment and inflation. In the United Republic of Tanzania, Gabon and Rwanda, more favourable economic conditions improved prospects for the future.

To date, regional and UN efforts to bring peace to eastern DRC have yielded few results. Recent developments that have pushed the M23 movement to lay down arms will be marked with optimism and prudence. The situation in the CAR remains volatile following the overthrow of the President in March 2013, which led to violence and violations of human rights. Nonetheless, the CAR and other countries in the region have shown a positive attitude towards the institution of asylum and respect for refugee law and principles.

Conflicts and generalized insecurity, both within the subregion and in border areas such as in the east of the DRC, Darfur (Sudan), the CAR and the north-east of Nigeria, continue to fuel displacement. Displacement within the DRC has been accompanied by the flight of Congolese seeking asylum in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Similarly, in addition to the growing number of internally displaced people (IDPs) within the CAR, its citizens have fled to Cameroon, Chad, the DRC and the Congo. Sudanese refugees from Darfur (Sudan) have sought asylum in the CAR, while Nigerian refugees have fled to Cameroon and Niger.

At the end of June 2013, the total number of displaced people within the subregion, including refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs, stood at over 6.3 million. Of that number, 1.1 million were assisted by UNHCR.

UNHCR was able to make considerable progress in the search for durable solutions for refugees from the DRC in the Congo, with more than 41,000 assisted to repatriate during the first half of 2013. At the beginning of September 2013, the number of those who had returned from the Congo to their home in the DRC since the start of the repatriation operation in April 2012 reached 100,000, making it likely that the operation would be completed by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014.

In 2014-2015, UNHCR will pursue comprehensive durable solutions strategies for Angolan and Rwandan refugees. Achievements with regard to durable solutions for Rwandan refugees in the DRC and Burundi in 2013 included the repatriation of close to 4,000, mostly from the DRC. In 2012-2013, more than 100,000 Congolese refugees were assisted to return to the DRC. The 6,000 DRC refugees in Batalimo Camp in the CAR are expected to repatriate during the last quarter of 2013.

| Response |


  • UNHCR's work to protect refugees in the subregion will include programmes in child protection and efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and exploitation. It will also meet refugees' basic needs in the area of health care; provide sanitary materials for women; offer basic education for children; develop livelihood and self-reliance opportunities for refugees (particularly as a first step towards local integration); and intensify efforts to search for durable solutions.

  • In order to advance the reintegration of Congolese returnees in the DRC, UNHCR will continue to address their basics needs in terms of health, shelter and education, and promote peaceful cohabitation by conducting sensitization programmes in local communities.

  • To seek durable solutions for former Angolan and Rwandan refugees and facilitate their voluntary repatriation or local integration, UNHCR will work with the concerned Governments through tripartite commissions.

  • The regional resettlement policy for Congolese refugees from the DRC will be implemented, and resettlement will be offered to a limited number of other refugee groups.

  • UNHCR will continue to lead the protection cluster for IDPs, focusing on life-saving activities, including protection monitoring and the prevention of SGBV. IDPs will be provided with basic assistance (particularly shelter) and helped with their return and reintegration.


The biggest challenges for UNHCR operations in the subregion arise from the lack of security. Conflict and violence in eastern DRC and northern Nigeria, as well as throughout the CAR, are driving internal and external displacement and creating serious obstacles to the achievement of durable solutions. The logistical constraints to reaching refugees from the DRC in the north of the Congo and the CAR; Nigerian refugees in the far north of Cameroon; and refugees from the CAR in the north of the DRC; are considerable. In addition to hampering access, security constraints and logistical challenges also increase the cost of operations.

Should these challenges not be adequately addressed, the consequences for people of concern would be significant. For example: voluntary repatriation from the Congo and the CAR would be stalled; refugees from the CAR in the north of the DRC would not receive adequate protection and assistance; and Angolan and Rwandan refugees - as well as the remaining refugees in Gabon - would not be able to benefit from durable solutions. Refugee status determination (RSD) processes would also decelerate, and the shelter and protection needs of the majority of IDPs in the DRC and the CAR would not be covered.

| Implementation |


Operations in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania are described in separate country operation chapters.

UNHCR closed its office in Gabon in January 2013, but four national staff remain in the country under the oversight of the Regional Office in DRC. As of 30 June 2013, there were 4,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in Gabon: some 1,600 refugees from Chad, the Congo, the DRC and other countries, as well as almost 2,400 asylum-seekers from the DRC, Chad, the CAR and elsewhere. In 2014 UNHCR aims to:

  • collaborate with the Government to protect and assist the refugees and asylum-seekers who remain in the country, in particular by advocating for the restructuring of the Commission Nationale pour les Réfugiés and the establishment of a fair and efficient RSD procedure;

  • pursue the search for durable solutions by implementing the comprehensive strategy for Angolans, Liberians and Rwandans; and

  • make resettlement available for those who meet the criteria; and advocate for the local integration of refugees who cannot repatriate by improving their access to socio-economic rights, including medical care, as provided for by Gabonese law.

| Financial information |

UNHCR is faced with a highly fluid situation in the Central Africa and Great Lakes subregion, where major repatriation operations and new refugee influxes are taking place place simultaneously. While durable solutions have been achieved in the recent past for refugees from the DRC repatriating from the Congo or Burundian refugees returning from Tanzania, for example, UNHCR has had to launch two supplementary appeals in 2013 for new displacement emergencies in the CAR and the DRC. In 2014, the financial requirements for the subregion are set at USD 372 million, with more than half of the budget, USD 209.7 million, allocated to the refugee programme; USD 87.1 million for IDP protection and assistance; and USD 72.6 million for reintegration projects.

UNHCR budgets for Central Africa and the Great Lakes (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 372,920,503 209,733,949 2,562,042 72,563,781 87,131,447 371,991,220 350,762,266
Burundi 31,543,912 24,773,311 121,631 0 199,829 25,094,771 24,989,448
Cameroon 19,015,028 24,217,605 792,931 0 0 25,010,536 23,020,000
Central African Republic 23,619,665 12,859,228 0 0 11,495,913 24,355,141 30,355,141
Congo 29,586,000 29,948,467 0 0 0 29,948,467 20,619,611
Democratic Republic of the Congo Regional Office 183,197,418 52,757,703 1,647,481 47,129,091 75,435,705 176,969,980 176,969,980
Rwanda 46,351,441 49,188,547 0 2,628,451 0 51,816,998 42,100,000
United Republic of Tanzania 39,607,039 15,989,087 0 22,806,240 0 38,795,327 32,708,085

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Gabon [1]
Refugees [2] 1,594
Asylum Seekers [3] 2,436
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 4,030
Originating from Gabon [1]
Refugees [2] 177
Asylum Seekers [3] 106
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 283

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