UN refugee agency hails new protection law in Central African Republic
The United Nations refugee agency today hailed a new law approved in the Central African Republic (CAR) guaranteeing refugees protection and other fundamental rights.
“Since independence, the Government and people of CAR have shown generous hospitality towards refugees, welcoming men, women and children, seeking protection as a result of conflict or persecution. The adoption of a national refugee law formalizes this liberal asylum policy,” said Bruno Geddo, UNHCR representative in Bangui.
The issue is key in the country, which has thousands of refugees and displaced persons within its borders; with the arrival earlier this year of 2,700 refugees from the Darfur region in Sudan, there are now some 9,000 refugees living in CAR, including some 2,000 Congolese. Some 80,000 Central Africans have fled conflict-affected areas in the country's north to neighbouring countries. An estimated 220,000 civilians are displaced within CAR.
Adopted Thursday by the National Assembly, the Law on the Status of Refugees must now be signed by President François Bozizé to come into force. It guarantees people fleeing conflict and persecution the right to enter CAR territory, to apply for asylum and to be recognized as refugees if they fulfil the definitions contained in international treaties. It also establishes an appeals commission to re-examine the cases of people who have been denied refugee status in the first instance.
In addition, the law guarantees people seeking refuge in CAR the fundamental rights elaborated in international refugee law. This means that refugees will have most of the same rights enjoyed by CAR citizens, including the rights to employment, to freedom of association, to social assistance, to health services, to education and to freedom of movement and residency, UNHCR said in a news release.
Under the new legislation, refugees cannot be expelled from the CAR or sent forcibly to a country where their life or liberty could be at threat, the agency said.