Central Africa and the Great Lakes
Operational information on the Central Africa and the Great Lakes subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:
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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion Central Africa and the Great Lakes
People of Concern - 2018[["Refugees",1445672],["Refugee-like situation",3743],["Asylum-seekers",69302],["IDPs",5996236],["Returned IDPs",373899],["Returned refugees",90425],["Stateless",974],["Others of concern",36007]]
Response in 2018The overall situation in Central Africa and the Great Lakes region continued to be characterized by complex political situations and both new and protracted displacement in 2018. UNHCR declared three new emergencies in the sub-region in the course of 2018: Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the end of the year, the sub-region hosted more than 1.5 million refugees and asylum-seekers, with the largest caseloads in the DRC (534,830), Cameroon (388,450), the United Republic of Tanzania (317,980) and Rwanda (145,780). In addition, 5.36 million people were internally displaced within the sub-region, with the vast majority, 4.52 million IDPs, in the DRC. Furthermore, 45,370 refugees returned to Burundi and 35,130 to the DRC. The number of stateless persons stood at 641,940, of which 99.8% were in CAR.
The political situation in Burundi remained complex and difficult, due to the forthcoming elections in 2020. Serious human rights violations continued to be reported throughout 2018, also having a negative impact on the socio-economic situation in the country. The main refugee population in Burundi consists of, mostly protracted, Congolese refugees living in five camps along the border.
In the Far North region of Cameroon, Boko Haram continued to commit serious human rights abuses and violations against civilian populations. Meanwhile, clashes between the government and armed separatists in the northwest and southwest regions intensified. The situation in Cameroon accounts for over 668,000 of the IDP population in the sub-region, with approximately 514,000 displaced during 2018 alone.
In CAR, some armed groups and their factions continued to control several parts of the territory. Regular violent clashes between armed groups, intercommunal tensions and violent attacks on civilian populations contributed to new displacement of about 266,000 IDPs and some 49,000 newly displaced refugees. Despite the continued insecurity, CAR also experienced unprecedented level of progress towards peace and reconciliation as the Government stepped up its engagement with armed groups mainly through dialogue, with support of member states from the region and the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation. In parallel, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) maintained its lead in local peace and dialogue processes, which resulted in restoration of peace and stability in some areas. The combination of these efforts led to a significant reduction in violence and enabled conditions for safe voluntary return of 35,128 refugees in addition to 306,246 IDPs, including 9,391 assisted by UNHCR. UNHCR worked with the Government to support the integration of the residual caseload of Sudanese refugees in Bambari (nearly 200 people), who opted to remain following the voluntary return of some 1,500 refugees in December 2017.
The situation in the DRC remained complex and challenging, comprising some 4.5 million IDPs and a further 825,000 Congolese refugees in the region. UNHCR declared an internal L2 emergency in August 2018 in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces of DRC, in view of the continued internal displacement crisis coupled with the outbreak of Ebola. UNHCR has since enhanced its protection monitoring and capacity, as well as strengthened its leadership through the Protection Cluster. Ebola continued to constitute a major threat with the number of cases steadily increasing throughout 2018. The outbreak is now the second biggest since the epidemic in West Africa in 2014. Responding to the crisis has proven difficult as the areas affected are also active areas of conflict.
UNHCR experienced a number of challenges in the United Republic of Tanzania in 2018. New arrivals from Burundi faced a stricter approached to territory, asylum and livelihoods to the Burundian refugees already in the country. The closure of all border entry points across north-western Tanzania significantly reduced the protection space available to refugees. Over the past two years, the United Republic of Tanzania has naturalized many of the Burundian refugees who arrived in 1972. However, a joint verification exercise of UNHCR and the Government identified the pending cases of approximately 58,000 Burundian people of concern (linked to the 1972 Burundian population), as well as pending cases from the initial naturalization process. UNHCR supported the Government to continue the naturalization process for those who qualify, as well as resolve protection issues, and work on alternative stay arrangements.
The sub-region made significant progress in advancing the #IBelong Campaign to eradicate statelessness by 2024 with the launch of N'Djamena Initiative for the Eradication of Statelessness in Central Africa, to which member states include Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo and São Tomé and Príncipe pledged to support.
UNHCR's operatons in the sub-region in 2018Operations in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and United Republic of Tanzania are presented in separate country summaries.
Refugees in Gabon enjoy access to the labour market on the same basis as nationals, and now have reliable access to farm land in key provinces. Refugees in formal employment accessed the National Insurance Fund for Illness, although 686 without employment are not yet covered. Four Chadian refugees who had been born in Gabon three who married nationals were granted citizenship in 2018. The Government issued 90 residence cards to 129 Chadian refugees who had been in the country for a significant period. The cost of and administrative process to obtain residence cards meant that 165 applications remain pending.
The operational environment in the Central Africa and the Great Lakes subregion will continue to be heavily affected by a high concentration of multiple, complex and often inter-connected displacement situations. Displacement, both internal and external, has been on the rise in 2017 and the subregion now hosts 6.6 million people of concern. The continuing instability in Burundi, significant deterioration of the security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as the Central African Republic (CAR), have been major sources of internal displacement and refugee outflows and will continue to require dedicated coordinated responses.
The continued political instability in Burundi has led to the outflow of more than 419,000 Burundian refugees to neighbouring countries and beyond since April 2015. In 2017, refugees have continued to flee their country, however at a lower level than in previous years, with close to 60,000 new refugee arrivals in the region. In 2018, unless the political situation is sustainably resolved, the refugee outflows are expected to continue in the region, albeit at a lower scale than in 2017. UNHCR, under the Burundi Regional Response, will advocate for maintenance of protection and asylums pace in the region, while supporting host countries to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to refugees, prioritizing livelihoods and self-reliance in a whole-of-society approach. Concurrently, small-scale spontaneous returns of Burundian refugees, predominantly from the United Republic of Tanzania have been reported during the course of 2017. While UNHCR is not comprehensively promoting Burundian refugee returns, it has begun assisting small groups of refugees from Tanzania wishing to voluntarily return, which, will be continued in 2018 on a voluntary basis and will require coordinated reintegration support.
In 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has seen a significant deterioration in the security situation. The number of IDPs now stands at 3.8 million, with more than 1.7 million displaced in 2017 alone, predominantly due to the Kasai crisis. Close to 100,000 Congolese refugees have fled to countries in the region, including large numbers in Angola, Uganda and Zambia. With recent improvements in the security situation in the Kasai region, some 700,000 are estimated to have returned and are now confronted by the challenge of reintegration. However, inter-communal conflicts and violence persist. A system-wide Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Level-3 emergency has been recently declared for the Kasais, South Kivu and Tanganyika – regions hosting some of the largest numbers of IDPs. With presidential elections announced for late 2018, and persisting inter-communal violence, UNHCR will continue to monitor the volatile situation in the country as well as in its neighbouring countries. Regionally coordinated responses may need to be activated. Inside the DRC, UNHCR will seek to implement a comprehensive approach to protection and solutions for refugees that promotes self-reliance, while upscaling IDP protection and assistance focused on the L.3 provinces.
Internal political uncertainty in the Republic of the Congo, following the April 2016 presidential elections severely impacted the civilian population, leading to the displacement of entire villages within the Pool Department. The number has increased six-fold in less than a year, from close to 13,000 in June 2016 to 81,000 in May 2017. Several villages in the Pool and Bouenza regions in the country’s south remain seriously affected by displacement and will continue to require humanitarian assistance in 2018.
The humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) is expected to remain fragile in 2018, following the resurgence of fighting between armed groups leading to displacement within the country and across borders. The conflict has spread to new areas in the north-west and south-east, as well as to areas previously unaffected by violence, such as Bria, in the centre of the country, and Kaga Bandoro, in the north. There are more than 514,000 CAR refugees in the region, with largest numbers in Cameroon. UNHCR will continue to monitor and support CAR refugees in the region in tandem with increased assistance to growing numbers of IDPs and refugees hosted in the country.
In 2018, UNHCR’s refugee responses in the region will be increasingly embedded in a comprehensive protection and solutions refugee response. During 2017, the United Republic of Tanzania has initiated the roll-out of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), which aims to support the Government in meeting its commitments and recent pledges for enhanced protection and inclusion of refugees. Rwanda, which continues to receive thousands of Rwandan returnees every year, and is hosting an increasing number of Burundian and Congolese refugees, is applying a CRRF-like approach in their refugee response, seeking to promote refugee inclusion in key sectors while supporting host communities.
The pursuit of solutions for refugees has also seen headway in 2017. The Office will continue to work with the Government of Tanzania to facilitate solutions for the verification and naturalization of the remaining Burundian refugees who arrived in 1972. As the deadline for the cessation of refugee status for Rwandan refugees draws closer, the number of Rwandan returnees arriving mostly from the DRC more than doubled in 2017 as compared to 2016. UNHCR will continue to support the pursuit of solutions for Rwandan refugees, advocating for assisted voluntary repatriation and alternative legal status for those wishing to remain in host countries. UNHCR is expecting to see a reduction in the number of Central African refugees repatriating, though it is anticipated that some 25,000 people will return in 2018.
Response and implementation
Operations in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo (Republic of the), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania are presented in separate chapters. For other countries where UNHCR operates in the subregion, please see below.
As of August 2017, Gabon is hosting more than 1,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mostly from Chad, but also from CAR, the DRC, and other countries. Refugees and asylum-seekers are predominantly residing in urban areas and their displacement is mostly protracted, 25 years on average. Refugees are unable to integrate professionally, especially in light of the worsening economic situation following the collapse of the price of oil in 2015. While most refugees indicate a preference for integration and naturalization in Gabon, ongoing concerns over the costs and length of the process continue to hamper the realization of durable solutions. In 2018, UNHCR will maintain discussions with refugees to bring solutions to their situation, and will facilitate and support local integration of the refugees who expressed a need to stay through advocacy with the local authorities.
2018 Budget and Expenditure in Central Africa and the Great Lakes | USD
|Central African Republic||Budget|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo Regional Office||Budget|
|United Republic of Tanzania||Budget|
2018 Voluntary Contributions to | USD
|Earmarking / Donor||Total|