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:

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