Refugees and asylum-seekers

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Assessment for each PPG

Current Situation and Achievements to date

Urban refugees and asylum-seekers are mainly originating from neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Republic of Congo, in addition to various smaller groups of other refugees from other nationalities. They are to be found in large urban centres in the eastern Provinces as well as Katanga and Equateur, with the highest concentration being in Kinshasa and Bas Congo. In 2016, it is expected that there will be 4,000 urban refugees and 1,184 asylum-seekers in 2016, which figures will go up to 6,000 and 3,552 respectively in 2017.

While the number of urban refugees and asylum-seekers is obviously insignificant compared to that of those staying in refugee camps, addressing their protection concerns and humanitarian needs has proven to be far more challenging for both UNHCR and its implementing partners. Indeed, the potential for their self-reliance is rather limited due to higher cost of living and greater difficulties in securing gainful jobs in urban centres, where they are consequently forced to rely heavily on UNHCR’s assistance for their survival.

Their basic needs in terms of access to health care, education, food and accommodation are far from being fully covered and, as a consequence, they have no other choice than turning to UNHCR and civil society organizations looking for assistance.

Some of the urban refugees have been staying in the DRC for an extended period of time with no opportunities for any durable solutions, including voluntary repatriation, which is not deemed feasible as yet because of the prevailing conditions in their countries of origin.

Moreover, it must be highlighted that due to their stigmatization coupled with the xenophobic attitudes of the general public towards them for reasons linked to their nationality, urban refugees have actually no prospects for local integration either. This is particularly the case for refugees coming from the Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

The voluntary repatriation of the former Angolan refugees is expected to be concluded sometime towards the end of July 2015. Nevertheless, there will still be a residual group which is made up of those who are still waiting for the examination of the request they had submitted before the National Commission for Refugees (CNR) for their exemption from the application of the cessation clause, claiming to be in a continued need of international protection, as well as those who have opted for local integration as ordinary migrants.

As far as access to the status determination procedure is concerned, it must be stated that asylum-seekers living elsewhere away from the capital city Kinshasa are bound to wait for unduly extended periods of time before getting a chance to have their asylum applications or appeals against first-instance negative decisions reach respectively the Eligibility Commission and the Appeals Board, which entities are both based in Kinshasa.

It is expected that the training provided in 2014 on RSD-related topics to CNR’s technical staff as well as to the members of the Eligibility Commission and the Appeals Board will continue in 2015 and that this will contribute to the improvement of the RSD process as a whole. However, in view of the rather high turnover of CNR’s staff as well as members of the eligibility commission and the appeals board, such training events should be repeated and reinforced in 2016.

In conclusion, it must be stated that urban refugees and asylum-seekers are confronted with serious difficulties in accessing basic social services including, but not limited to, education, health, HIV services and livelihoods. Added to this is the difficulty in having timely access to the documentation required, which, in turn, results in their exposure to all sorts of harassment such as arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, extortion, eviction and so on.

Strategy for each PPG

Protection and Solutions Strategy (comprehensive)

In light of the above-mentioned challenges, UNHCR’s strategy for the protection of urban refugees and asylum-seekers in 2016 will be focused on improving access to the status determination procedure, documentation, the promotion of self-reliance through income-generating activities, access to basic services such as education for refugee children (primary and secondary level), health care, prevention and response to SGBV, accommodation for protection purposes, as well as proactive search for durable solutions including resettlement for cases with specific needs facing serious protection concerns which cannot be effectively addressed locally. Moreover, all refugees and asylum-seekers will be registered on an individual basis and issued with the proper documentation for their protection.

General elections in the DRC are scheduled to start on 25 October 2015 and be concluded on 27 November 2016 with the presidential election. Given the political climate surrounding the upcoming elections and the recent massive demonstrations against the revision of the constitution ahead of the elections, it is feared that urban refugees and asylum-seekers will be exposed in 2015 and 2016 to additional protection risks and challenges.  

Prioritized Results

Refugees and asylum-seekers in the DRC are mainly concentrated in rural and urban areas whereas security remains a problem. A favourable protection environment, security from violence and exploitation, the provision of basic needs and essential services and durable solutions will be the main focus for the bureau.

Priority will be given to continue to strengthen the Government’s capacity (Protection training and capacity building for the CNR) in order to reinforce their competencies on civil status and documentation, on gender relations and abuses of power while health status, education, integration, resettlement and voluntary returns will remain the principal concerns. Special attention will be given to people with specific needs, mainly children and women, and the prevention of and response to SGBV will be reinforced.

Since refugee status determination (RSD) is one of the Government primary responsibilities, and although UNHCR has been providing technical support to enhance the procedures, in the DRC, RSD remains a challenge for UNHCR’s protection and assistance activities. The RSD procedures take too long. As of today, hundreds of asylum-seekers applications are pending for Government decision. Furthermore, the present of local as well as foreign armed groups in the areas of interventions expose women and children to various forms of gender-related persecution.

Unmet Needs

With an increased number of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country and with limited financial resources, the Office will struggle to properly assist and protect people of concern.

Asylum procedures, protection risks faced by people of concern, opportunities for quality education, livelihoods and durable solutions will only be partially covered. During 2015, an agreement with the ILO has been negotiated in order to support income-generating activities to sustain the self-sufficiency of refugees and asylum-seekers. However, the very limited funds available will not allow implementing these projects.

Even though refugee children have free access to education, they are often exposed to discrimination due to their ethnic/linguistic origin. Within the funds currently available, extra school fees for reinforcement charge as complement to teachers’ salaries and school materials will not be sufficient. Also, the biometric registration of refugees will not be implemented.

Key Performance Targets

Indicator Target Result (End Year)
# of best interests assessments conducted 420 24
# of cross-border coordination meetings held 1 -
# of children enrolled in primary education 820 820
# of students enrolled in lower secondary education 300 264
# of persons referred to secondary and tertiary medical care 415 415
# of reported SGBV incidents for which survivors receive psychosocial counselling 221 221
# of tripartite agreement concluded 1 -
# of PoC health screenings performed 2,000 -
# of children aged 3-5 enrolled in early childhood education 80 47
# of awareness raising campaigns on SGBV prevention and response conducted 122 122
# of reported SGBV incidents for which survivors receive medical assistance 28 28
# of UNHCR staff trained in child protection and/or communication with children and child-friendly procedures 40 7
Access of PoC to national/government primary health care facilities ensured (yes/no) 100 100
# of reported SGBV incidents for which survivors receive legal assistance 40 -
% of registration data updated during the last year 100 90
# of PoC provided with safe and dignified returnee transport 2,000 25
# of best interests determination decisions taken by BID panel 420 17
# of reported incidents for which survivors receive material assistance 74 74
# of school communities receiving cash grants or vouchers 1 1
# of students enrolled in upper secondary education 120 -
# of PoC receiving return packages 2,000 -
# of partner and government staff provided with general training on child protection and children's rights 240 31