Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees, but not asylum seekers.
According to UNHCR only 4 percent of asylum seekers had been determined to be refugees, and it took an average of six years for them to complete the filing process and obtain refugee status. There are no laws recognizing asylum seekers nor any laws implementing the protections afforded in the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which the government is a signatory.
As of September 8, the country hosted 61,492 refugees, 6,869 of whom arrived during the year. There were 3,248 asylum seekers, 111 of whom arrived during the year. Fifteen refugees requested repatriation, and UNHCR organized their return to their country of origin.
As of October 6, 119,031 DRC nationals had repatriated since 2012, including seven during the year. An additional 156 new DRC refugees registered with UNHCR during the year, bringing the total to 23,449 registered DRC refugees. There were 225 new requests for asylum from DRC nationals, making the total 2,237 asylum seekers from the DRC.
As of October 2, the country hosted 9,122 Rwandan refugees, most of whom fled the genocide in 1994. At a tripartite meeting in 2012, the governments of the Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, with UNHCR, agreed to invoke a cessation clause that would revoke the refugee status of Rwandans in the Congo beginning on June 30, 2013. As of that date, the agreement required Rwandan refugees to return to Rwanda, formalize their legal status in the Congo, or apply for refugee status based on individual claims due to particular circumstances. UNHCR reported nearly all Rwandans subject to the cessation clause chose to file for an individualized determination of refugee status. The Congolese government had not begun the interviews to determine individualized status and said those who had filed would be viewed as refugees until it makes a final decision on their applications. Between January 1 and October 2, 11 Rwandans repatriated from the Congo without seeking Congolese citizenship. As of October 2, there were 361 asylum seekers from Rwanda in the Congo.
UNHCR recommended cessation of refugee status for Angolan refugees, effective June 2012, and the government began implementing cessation for Angolans in September 2012. As of October 2, the Congo hosted 469 refugees from Angola who had filed for individualized determinations of refugee status. The government had not begun interviews to determine individualized status and stated those who had filed would be viewed as refugees until it made a final decision on their applications. Between January 1 and October 2, 248 Angolans repatriated from the Congo. The country hosted 89 Angolan asylum seekers; there were 29 new asylum applications from Angolans during the year.
The country saw an influx of persons fleeing violence in the CAR beginning in December 2012. According to UNHCR, as of October 2, the country hosted 28,247 refugees from the CAR; 6,579 arrived during the year. There were 113 registered asylum seekers from the CAR, of whom 17 registered during the year.
The National Refugee Assistance Committee (CNAR) handled applications for refugee status. The CNAR received all its operating budget from UNHCR.
Local integration for refugees in the country was particularly difficult due to the cost of acquiring a residence permit, 350,000 CFA francs ($607). According to UNHCR no refugees obtained a residency card or alternative status as of November 23.
Refoulement: The government reportedly did not always provide protection against the expulsion or involuntary return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom might be threatened because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In contrast to 2014, when, according to UNHCR, authorities expelled 86 refugees from the DRC, there were no reports of refugees expelled during the year.
Refugee Abuse: According to UNHCR police authorities harassed and arbitrarily arrested refugees on a regular basis. From January to September of this year, UNHCR received more than a dozen complaints from refugees of physical violence from police during their detention. Police detaining refugees allegedly did not accept the valid identity cards presented to them and forced refugees to pay a small bribe to avoid arrest or obtain release.
In October 2014 local NGOs reported police destroyed the homes and belongings of 73 refugee families from the CAR during an effort to arrest criminal gang members thought to be living in Zone 753 of the Ouenze neighborhood in Brazzaville.
According to UNHCR gender-based violence was frequent at refugee sites, with 27 cases of rape reported from January through July; 16 involved minors. Refugees lodged 11 of these complaints with authorities as official complaints. There were 64 cases concerning gender-based violence pending before the courts, none of which was resolved during the year. The vast majority of such incidents went unreported because complaints could take three or more years before courts examined them. Families of victims often preferred settlements through traditional justice mechanisms of negotiating directly with the perpetrators. UNHCR’s protection officers and medical partners provided medical, psychosocial, and legal assistance to victims of gender-based violence, including rape. Refugees had equal access to community health centers and hospitals, but reported discriminatory treatment at some hospitals, including insults by medical personnel and not being treated in priority order relative to their medical condition. Refugees had equal legal recourse for criminal complaints (for example, rape) and civil disputes.
Employment: The law does not address employment for refugees, but government decrees issued in 2005, 2008, and 2011 prohibit foreigners, including refugees, from practicing small trade activities and working in the public transportation sector. Following the operation to expel undocumented migrants in 2014, police aggressively implemented these laws, resulting in sudden and mass unemployment of refugees. According to UNHCR, due to strict enforcement of the law, 295 refugees registered as taxi drivers and 550 refugee families involved in small trade activities became unemployed during the year.
Several rural localities banned foreigners from continuing their farming activities. According to UNHCR early in the year in the rural village of Inoni in the north of the Pool region, Congolese property owners unexpectedly evicted approximately 300 Rwandan refugee families who had been leasing land for agricultural purposes for upwards of seven years. According to customary laws, property owners may require foreigners to pay an extra licensing fee to lease property or land.
In recent years anecdotal evidence suggested quotas and excessive work permit fees limited refugee employment opportunities in the formal sector. A health-care organization stated the law required it to hire the country’s nationals for at least 90 percent of its positions, and authorities required refugees to obtain two-year work permits that cost approximately 150,000 CFA francs ($260), approximately equivalent to three months’ salary.
Many refugees worked informally in the agriculture sector to obtain food. Some refugees farmed land that belonged to local nationals in exchange for a percentage of the harvest or a cash payment.
Access to Basic Services: UNHCR-funded primary schooling was accessible to most refugees. Due to budget restraints during the year, however, UNHCR reduced support, and school attendance rates dropped by 21 percent. During the academic year, primary schools enrolled 5,273 refugee children, including 2,157 girls. Authorities severely limited access to secondary and vocational education for refugees. Most secondary education teachers at such schools were refugees who either volunteered to teach or were paid by the parents of refugee children. There were 1,346 refugee children enrolled in secondary school, of whom 680 were girls.
Durable Solutions: In 2010 the government signed a tripartite agreement with the government of the DRC and UNHCR that outlined the conditions and means for voluntary repatriation of the Likouala refugees to the DRC’s Equateur Province. Authorities delayed large-scale repatriation due to the refugees’ desire to wait for both international repatriation assistance and the consolidation of post-conflict peace and reconciliation between the Lobala and Boba tribes. Since the beginning of the UNHCR repatriation campaign in 2012, the agency repatriated more than 119,000 DRC nationals to Equateur Province.