From refugee to returnee to asylum seeker: Burundian refugees struggle to find protection in the Great Lakes region
Today, the International Refugee Rights Initiative is launching a briefing paper, From refugee to returnee to asylum seeker: Burundian refugees struggle to find protection in the Great Lakes region.
Based on interviews conducted in Nakivale settlement in Uganda and discussions of the findings with the government of Uganda and UNHCR, the briefing tells the story of a small number of Burundian refugees and asylum seekers who have fled into a second phase of exile. As former refugees living in Tanzania’s Mtabila refugee camp, they were forcibly returned to Burundi at the end of 2012 before fleeing once more, this time to Uganda’s Nakivale refugee settlement. Here, they report that they are eking out a precarious living, with inadequate access to humanitarian assistance and with little confidence that their claims for protection will be successful.
Their future is highly precarious, and the story they tell underscores the realities of living in a region that has failed to find a comprehensive solution to the plight of thousands of refugees. It points to a Tanzanian government fatigued with hosting refugees for decades; a Burundian government that has failed to establish and implement equitable structures for the distribution and reclamation of land and to create an inclusive polity in which opposition is tolerated; and a Ugandan government reportedly concerned about granting refugee status to asylum seekers whose status has been examined multiple times.
The wider context in which these events are unfolding is one in which repatriation and return—including forced return in the context of cessation—is being strongly emphasised across the region for protracted refugee situations to the detriment of those for whom return is not possible. As a result, while closing Mtabila camp in Tanzania and emptying it of refugees might have made it look like the problem had been resolved for the government of Tanzania and the international community, in reality it may have only displaced it elsewhere in the region.
In light of the findings, the briefing concludes with a number of recommendations.
Read the full paper here.
Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa
A paper series developed by the International Refugee Rights Initiative in collaboration with local partners in Africa reflecting local perspectives on experiences with international justice. The series is designed to more fully explore perceptions of international justice and the social, political and legal impact of its mechanisms at the local level. It is aimed at opening up a dialogue about the successes and failures of the international justice experiment in Africa and the development of recommendations for a more productive and effective engagement going forward.
The papers in the series are:
Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri, paper no. 2, March 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
A Poisoned Chalice? Local civil society and the International Criminal Court's engagement in Uganda, paper no. 1, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa, Introductory note to the paper series, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.
African Commission: Investigate Sudan Killings
Read the letter here.
Read the press release here.
African Civil Society Calls for Action on the Right to a Nationality
On the 19th and 20th October 2013, representatives of the International Refugee Rights Initiative attended a meeting held in Dakar, Senegal under the auspices of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, on the theme of the right to a nationality in Africa. Participants included representatives of civil society organisations from Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mauritania, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, as well as a representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in West Africa responsible for statelessness, and of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, headquartered in the Gambia.
The participants welcomed the initiative of the African Commission to adopt a protocol on the right to nationality, and reiterated their support and commitment to ensure that the resolution is applied and to lend their weight to all efforts to ensure the adoption by States parties to the African Charter of an additional protocol on the right to a nationality.
Read the full communique.