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Daring to dream of an end to exile in sub-Saharan Africa

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					30                                  PROTRACTED DISPLACEMENT                                                                                   FMR33




     Daring to dream of an end to
     exile in sub-Saharan Africa
     Marjon Kamara

     Almost 98% of the refugees in Africa today could be                                                   a major cause of flight. The numbers
     considered as in protracted refugee situations. We need                                               peaked in the mid-1990s when some
                                                                                                           seven million Africans were living in
     concerted efforts to draw as many as possible to a close.                                             exile as refugees. Today half of the
     People from eight nations are                the many small groups of refugees,                       nationalities represented among the
     represented among the 2.3 million            or individual refugees, who remain                       largest protracted refugee populations
     refugees in sub-Saharan Africa               in protracted situations in both rural                   at that time no longer figure in the
     falling within UNHCR’s definition            and urban settings. This broader                         charts. Several more could soon drop
     of a protracted situation (that is,          definition adds people from another                      off as well, as peace is consolidated
     more than 25,000 refugees in exile           13 countries: Chad, Republic of                          and refugees find solutions.
     for more than five years), namely:           Congo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia,
     Angola, Burundi, Central African             Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria,                            Between 1993 and 2007 more than
     Republic, Democratic Republic of             Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Uganda.                        9.2 million people across Africa
     the Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Liberia,                                                                    were able to return to their country
     Somalia and Sudan (Darfur and the            Since the 1960s, when UNHCR began                        of origin. Decreases in total refugee
     South). While the focus on larger            working in sub-Saharan Africa, the                       populations are also a result of
     protracted refugee situations is             dynamics of displacement and trends                      third country resettlement, with
     warranted both by their numbers              in refugee movements have evolved                        over 182,500 people resettled in the
     and the impact these populations             considerably. Initially, refugee flight                  same period. Opportunities for local
     have on their host communities, it           was often the result of a liberation                     integration, on the other hand, which
     is also important not to lose sight of       struggle. Later, civil conflicts became                  had been a solution for many refugees
     UNHCR/E Kanalstein




                                        Voluntary repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees from Liberia, July 2004.
FMR33                             PROTRACTED DISPLACEMENT                                                                        31



    in the region in the 1980s, became       or, alternatively, a change from         Successful efforts to resolve the
    negligible towards the end of the 20th   refugee to resident status to enable     border tensions between Nigeria
    century. Encouraging signs, however,     their full local integration.            and Cameroon have also enabled
    indicate that settling permanently                                                the majority of Nigerians who
    in their country of asylum is once       Closing	the	‘refugee	chapters’           sought refuge in Cameroon to
    again becoming an option for a           A comprehensive approach to              return home. UNHCR is working
    considerable number of refugees.         achieving solutions for refugees         with the remaining group, which
                                             remaining in protracted situations       over the years has decreased from
    Remaining refugees                       is desirable, including placing          17,000 persons to fewer than 3,000, to
    Among smaller residual populations       a greater focus on increasing            identify the preferred solutions and
    of refugees in protracted situations     receptivity to local integration. For    bring this refugee chapter to a close.
    are groups and individuals,              Angolans, Liberians and Sierra
    sometimes widely dispersed among         Leoneans, UNHCR is working with          Interminable	conflicts
    several African countries, who took      governments in their countries           Yet prospects for return remain dim
    refuge outside their country of          of origin and asylum to bring the        for some refugees whose countries
    origin many years ago. Identifying       ‘refugee chapter’ in the history of      are engulfed in intractable conflicts.
    appropriate solutions for them           these countries to proper closure.1      For the Congolese (DRC), Central
    requires an understanding of their                                                Africans, Sudanese from Darfur and
    particular situations. Ghanaians who     The prospects for achieving              Somalis, predicting the outcomes of
    have been in Togo since the 1980s are    solutions for all Angolans are           current peace negotiations is difficult.
    already socially and economically        encouraging. While the voluntary         To increase the likelihood that any
    integrated and other groups, such        repatriation operation was formally      agreements will be comprehensive,
    as Congolese in Gabon, are moving        concluded in 2007, UNHCR and             UNHCR is advocating for the
    in this direction. For the Ethiopians    the Government of Angola are             inclusion of both refugees and IDPs in
    who took refuge in Kenya in the          developing a comprehensive plan          peace processes. UNHCR facilitated
    early 1990s, resettlement has been       which would provide for the              the participation of Congolese in the
    the main option to date. On the          voluntary return of some of the          Goma Peace Conference and Darfuris
    other hand, Ethiopians who fled          remaining Angolan refugees in            in the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and
    to Sudan may have the option of          Southern Africa, which may in turn       Consultations and is currently
    local integration, and a profiling       open the way for local integration       exploring similar possibilities for the
    exercise is currently underway to        for those who do not wish to return.     refugee and IDP populations from the
    identify an appropriate solution for     The will and intentions of the           Central African Republic and Somalia.
    each individual. Repatriation also       refugees are the key consideration.
    remains a possibility for others, such                                            The Congolese refugee population
    as the Namibians who have been in        While the peace processes in Burundi     is a mixture of people who fled in
    Botswana for over 10 years and the       and South Sudan are still fragile,       the 1970s due to conflict in Katanga
    Mauritanians in Senegal since 1989.      UNHCR is cautiously optimistic that      Province and others who have been
                                             the conditions for achieving solutions   uprooted since 1996 as a result of
    Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan       for all remaining Burundian and          civil war. The earlier group (some
    have spent the greatest time in exile    South Sudanese refugees are falling      11,900) fled to Angola, where they
    – some of them more than 40 years.       into place. To date, close to half a     have achieved a significant level of
    In view of the limited prospects for     million Burundians have gone home,       socio-economic integration and are
    voluntary repatriation, the focus        with the number of persons choosing      expected to be able to naturalise as
    is on self-reliance as a precursor to    to return having sharply increased       Angolan citizens or obtain permanent
    local integration, which is no longer    since 2006. According to current         resident status as a step toward
    a taboo. In Ethiopia, where there are    projections, organised repatriation      eventual naturalisation. The solution
    just over 13,000 Eritrean refugees,      should be complete by the end of         for most Congolese refugees who fled
    large-scale resettlement is underway.    2009. UNHCR has also actively            in the 1990s is to return home and
                                             pursued resettlement, including          some, despite the volatile situation,
    Solutions for Rwandan refugees           for a group of more than 8,500           are indeed returning. Resettlement
    have seemed the most elusive since       Burundian refugees from the 1972         is also being pursued for some and
    many of those remaining in exile         influx living in camps in Tanzania.2     for others local integration may be
    continue to reject the possibility                                                an option. For the Central Africans
    of their return. Many of them are        For the South Sudanese, more             in Chad, UNHCR and its partners
    socially and economically integrated     than half of those who fled across       are focusing efforts on building
    in their countries of asylum to          borders have returned. UNHCR             self-reliance. On the other hand,
    varying degrees but, like others,        projects that of the roughly 125,000     resettlement has been significant
    remain dependent upon their              South Sudanese refugees remaining        for Somalis, with more than 75,000
    refugee status for right of residence.   in countries of asylum, almost           resettled since 1996, although this
    UNHCR continues to work closely          half are likely to return in 2009.       number is small in relation to the total
    with the Rwandan government,             Governments in the countries             number of Somali refugees in Africa.
    host country governments and             where these Sudanese refugees have
    refugees themselves in exploring         found asylum have not yet offered        In the mid-1980s Ugandan refugees
    all possibilities for solutions,         possibilities for local integration      fled to DRC and, in much smaller
    encouraging return where possible        but discussions are under way.           numbers, to Kenya. Those in DRC are
32                                 PROTRACTED DISPLACEMENT                                                                                 FMR33



     considered to have achieved a certain   with those of states (both countries    sometimes for decades, longing to
     level of socio-economic integration.    of asylum and countries of origin),     reclaim their basic human rights and
     UNHCR will be exploring local           multilateral African organisations      some ability to determine their own
     integration opportunities with the      and the international community         future. Perhaps the most poignant
     government, while also exploring        at large. In 2006, Ministers at the     dimension of the problem is to see
     possibilities for return both for       African Union (AU) Ministerial          young refugees being born and
     those in DRC and those in Kenya.        Meeting in Ouagadougou set              growing up in enforced exile. A
                                             their goal very high, calling for a     critical part of the AU’s undertaking
     The Chadians who became refugees        Special Summit “to tackle the root      will be to mobilise the political
     in several different outflows           causes of the problem of forced         will to give a voice to those who
     between the early 1980s and 2008 are    displacement in order to eradicate      have been forcibly displaced.
     largely socially and economically       this phenomenon” on the continent.
     integrated where they live in Benin,    The AU Special Summit on Refugees,      Marjon Kamara was Director,
     Cameroon, CAR, Gabon, Mali, Niger,      Returnees and Displaced Persons         Regional Bureau for Africa,
     Nigeria and Sudan. But, like many       due to take place in October 2009       UNHCR (http://www.unhcr.org)
     other refugee groups, they would        offers an important opportunity to      from October 2005 to May 2009
     benefit from the opportunity to         mobilise African states to build upon   and is now Liberian Ambassador
     obtain an appropriate legal status      the recent positive initiatives taken   to the UN. For more information
     that would facilitate their local       in several countries and achieve        please email sharpe@unhcr.org
     integration on a sustainable basis.     lasting solutions for refugees.
                                                                                     1. See also the following article on West Africa by
                                                                                     Alistair Boulton.
     Conclusion                              The common factor for all refugees is   2. See also the article by Jessie Thompson on
                                                                                     Burundians in Tanzania on pp35-36.
     Neither UNHCR nor the refugees          that they have limited or no control
     can realise durable solutions alone.    over their lives. For many, their
     The efforts need to be combined         lives are on hold while they wait,

				
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