UNHCR working to help conclude three African refugee situations

Briefing Notes, 7 February 2012

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 7 February 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is implementing a set of comprehensive strategies aimed at closing three of Africa's longstanding refugee situations, namely those involving Angolan, Liberian and Rwandan refugees.

These strategies-which were first announced in 2009 by the High Commissioner to UNHCR's governing body, the Executive Committee- aim at finding solutions for as many Angolan, Liberian and Rwandan refugees as possible, be it in their countries of origin or asylum.

Solutions include scaled up voluntary repatriation together with assistance packages to help former refugees reintegrate, or securing an alternative legal status that would allow them to continue to reside in the country of asylum. After decades in exile, many Angolan, Liberian and Rwandan refugees have established strong ties with their host communities, including through marriage. UNHCR hopes that countries of asylum will convert refugee status into residency permits for such persons, including ultimately citizenship when domestic legislation allows. In West Africa, for example, Liberians can obtain residence and work permits, allowing them to remain in the country of asylum as ECOWAS citzens.

Cessation clauses are built into the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Refugee Convention. They allow refugee status to end once fundamental and durable changes have taken place in the country of origin and the circumstances that led to refugee flight no longer exist. This is the case for all three countries of orgin. UNHCR recommends that cessation apply for Angolan refugees who fled the country as a result of the conflicts between 1961 and 2002; for Liberian refugees who fled the civil wars from 1989 and 2003; and for Rwandan refugees who fled between 1959 and 1998.

The application of cessation by States does not mean that all Angolan, Liberian and Rwandan refugees automatically lose their refugee status or that the countries of origin no longer produce any refugees. Cessation will not apply to refugees who still have well-founded fear of persecution, nor to refugees who have compelling reasons for not wanting to go back home because of past persecution. UNHCR is working closely with governments to protect asylum rights in these cases, even as we implement the comprehensive strategies. Cessation would also not apply to any Angolan, Liberian or Rwandan refugees who have pending asylum claims.

Furthermore, UNHCR appeals to governments to properly and fully determine all new or pending claims by Angolans, Liberians and Rwandans fairly, regardless of when they were filed.

UNHCR recommends that States continue to implement all aspects of the comprehensive strategies leading to cessation of refugee status by 30 June 2012 for Angolans and Liberians, and by 30 June 2013 for Rwandans. In Angola, 40 years of conflict that displaced millions of Angolans, finally ended in a lasting peace agreement in 2002. While the majority of Angolan refugees have since returned to their country of origin, more than 131,000 remain in exile, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Almost half of them have indicated their wish to return to Angola.

In Liberia, a period of civil wars that started in 1989 ended in 2003, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the departure of then-president Charles Taylor from office. The conflicts claimed 200,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of Liberians. While the majority of the Liberian refugees have returned home, some 63,000 remain in exile, mainly in Côte d'Ivoire.

In Rwanda, peace and stability have essentially prevailed since 1999. The vast majority of Rwandans refugees fled as a result of the 1994 genocide and its aftermath, including armed clashes in northwestern Rwanda in 1997 and 1998, the last time the country experience generalized violence. Over the past years, the majority of Rwandan refugees have returned to Rwanda, but close to 100,000 still remain in exile in some forty countries, mainly in Africa.

UNHCR stresses the importance of bringing protracted refugee situations to an end so that refugees can resume their normal lives. It is incumbent upon the international community to invest in a decent closure of longstanding refugee situations. Assisting these refugees in finding solutions will also help prevent larger mixed migrations movements.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

In Dakar: Helene Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91

In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Refugees

The number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.4 million at the beginning of 2013, down slightly from a year earlier.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

UNHCR has begun transferring refugees from Côte d'Ivoire to a new refugee camp in the north-eastern Liberian town of Bahn. Over the coming weeks UNHCR hopes to move up to 15,000 refugees into the facility, which has been carved out of the jungle. They are among almost 40,000 civilians from Côte d'Ivoire who have fled to escape mounting political tension in their country since the presidential election in late November.

The final number of people to move to Bahn will depend on how many wish to be relocated.from villages near the Liberia-Côte d'Ivoire border. Initially most of the refugees were taken in by host communities, living side-by-side with locals. Poor road conditions made it difficult for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance. Supplies of food, medicine and water have been running low, making conditions difficult for both locals and refugees.

At the camp in Bahn, refugees will have easy access to basic services such as health care, clean water and primary school education.

Refugees move to new camp in Liberia

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

Life in Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp is hard. Scorching hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, this flat, arid patch of land near the border with Syria was almost empty when the camp opened in July. Today, it hosts more than 31,000 Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country.

The journey to Jordan is perilous. Refugees cross the Syrian-Jordan border at night in temperatures that now hover close to freezing. Mothers try to keep their children quiet during the journey. It is a harrowing experience and not everyone makes it across.

In Za'atari, refugees are allocated a tent and given sleeping mats, blankets and food on arrival. But as winter approaches, UNHCR is working with partners to ensure that all refugees will be protected from the elements. This includes upgrading tents and moving the most vulnerable to prefabricated homes, now being installed.

Through the Norwegian Refugee Council, UNHCR has also distributed thousands of winter kits that include thermal liners, insulated ground pads and metal sheeting to build sheltered kitchen areas outside tents. Warmer clothes and more blankets will also be distributed where needed.

Refugees prepare for winter in Jordan's Za'atari camp

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.
Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."
Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced IraqisPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits displaced Iraqis

This week UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is visiting Iraq to meet with families displaced by conflict in recent weeks. After listening to accounts of their difficult journeys to safety, Guterres called for more support to help deal with the crisis. He will also visit some of the 300,000 Syrian refugees currently living in camps in northern Iraq.