PROMOTING AND PROTECTING REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS, MIGRANTS AND INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS THROUGH THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
At least 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement. At a time when hundreds of thousands of Africans have fled their homes as a result of conflict, persecution, climate change and worse hopelessness our work at AU Watch, is more important than ever before.
On paper, African refugees benefit from one of the most progressive protection regimes in the world. In reality, however, they face seemingly endless human rights hurdles including forced return, discrimination, arbitrary arrest and detention, restricted freedom of movement and expression, and a level of economic deprivation synonymous with violations of social and economic rights.
Whilst the adoption of the African Charter heralded the birth of the African human rights system, the first OAU treaty with what may be broadly termed a human rights dimension was the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (African Refugee Convention), adopted in 1969. This instrument affirmed the provisions of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, but also went further in expanding the refugee definition to include individuals fleeing their country of origin or nationality due to ‘external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order’.
The African Commission has special mechanisms to promote and protect human rights in Africa. The Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced is one of those mechanisms.
The mechanism was created in 2004 during the Commission’s 35th Ordinary Session to protect the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons. In 2006, the mandate was extended to include migrants as well. Its purpose is to:
• seek, receive, examine, and act upon the situation of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Africa;
• undertake studies, research and other related activities to examine appropriate ways to enhance the protection of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons;
• undertake fact-finding missions, investigations, and visits to refugee camps and camps for internally displaced persons;
• assist Member States of the African Union to develop appropriate policies, regulations and laws for the effective protection of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons;
• cooperate and engage in dialogue with Member States, National Human Rights Institutions, relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental bodies, international and regional mechanisms;
• develop and recommend effective strategies to better protect rights;
• raise awareness and promote the implementation of the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951 as well as the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugees Problems in Africa;
• and submit reports as every ordinary session of the African Commission on the situation of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Africa.
The Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits to Member States, with their consent. During these visits, which are also known as missions, the Special Rapporteur examines human rights conditions, particularly in refugee camps and camps for internally displaced persons. The Special Rapporteur then makes recommendations to the State on how to improve these conditions.
According to the Commission’s Rules of Procedure ’s, after the completion of a mission, the Special Rapporteur has a duty to publish a Mission Report which may usually be found on its website. However, as of October 2014, the Special Rapporteur had not posted any Mission Reports on its website. Mission reports contain general recommendations to the State, and often include specific recommendations to the international community and civil society, among others.
The Special Rapporteur is responsible for seeking and receiving information from individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions, and other stakeholders concerning cases or situations that involve refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and internally displaced persons.
Along with information gathered from such actors and during missions, the Special Rapporteur disseminates and obtains information through promotional activities, such as conferences, seminars, and expert meetings. The Special Rapporteur often coordinates these activities with civil society organizations, National Human Rights Organizations, and relevant actors within the UN system. See, e.g., Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Intersession Activity Report, 50th Ordinary Session (2011).
On the basis of information received, the Special Rapporteur may propose that the Commission take a certain action or decision, or he or she may raise awareness of an issue in his or her reports, press releases, or other activities.
The Special Rapporteur submits Intersession Activity Reports to the Commission each year, which outline the activities the Special Rapporteurship has undertaken. The Commission also prepares an annual Activity Report that it submits to the African Union Assembly which includes information gathered from the Special Rapporteur, summarizing positive developments and areas of concern regarding human rights in Africa.
The Kampala Convention
This is a legally binding instrument, which commits African States to prevent displacement, protect and assist internally displaced persons on the continent. There are currently about 13 million IDPs in Africa, which is more than half the world total.
It is a landmark legal instrument in international human rights and humanitarian law. It regulates the conduct of African states during displacement, in particular during armed conflict. It prohibits arbitrary displacement, caused by various man-made causes, such as conflicts or development projects, and makes provision for the assistance of IDPs in the event of displacement. It prohibits armed groups and their members from engaging in arbitrary displacement, or such other violations of the basic human rights of internally displaced persons, and reiterates the individual responsibility of members armed groups, (any other persons in authority) under national and international criminal law, for violations committed against IDPs.
The Kampala Convention places the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, IDPs and Migrants, at the centre of monitoring its compliance and the protection of the rights of IDPs.
17 African Union member states signed the agreement, namely, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Convention shall enter into force upon the ratification of 15 states. In spite of the euphoria of its adoption, the Kampala Convention, one of an impressive body of African Human Rights Instruments, was adopted under the backdrop of a rather unsatisfactory record of ratifications, and implementation of obligations under such instruments, by African States.
The Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, IDPs and Migrants in Africa, thus while congratulating the African Union and the member states for adopting the Kampala Convention, calls on those states which have not yet sign the Kampala Convention, to sign it at the earliest moment possible, and urges its early ratification so that 13 million IDPs in Africa can enjoy the rights enshrined therein.
Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the specific aspects of the Right to a Nationality and the Eradication of Statelessness in Africa
The Special Rapporteur may be contacted by:
Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons
31 Bijilo Annex Layout,
Kombo North District
P.O. Box 673
Email: The Special Rapporteur’s website contains an automated system to send the Special Rapporteur emails, by selecting the “Contact Commissioner” link.
The Special Rapporteur does not accept individual complaints or requests for provisional measures. Such communications must be addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. For additional information, see the Commission’s Guidelines for the Submission of Communications or IJRC’s resources on the African human rights system.
Statement by the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa on the occasion of World Refugee Day 2015
“A refugee is a person like you and me”
On the occasion of the 14th World Refugee Day, let us remember that “a refugee is a person like you and me”, a human being, an unfortunate person who did not choose his destiny.Like him, each one of us, a member of our family or relations can one day be a refugee.
Celebrating World Refugee Day is more than a commemoration; it is an opportunity to draw attention to the situation of these men, women and children and to let them know that despite everything they are human beings who have the inherent right to protection, assistance and respect of their dignity. Click here for more information
116 Resolution on the Renewal of the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa – ACHPR/Res.116(XXXXII)07
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission or ACHPR) meeting at its 42nd Ordinary Session held from 15 – 28 November 2007, in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo;
Recalling its mandate to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter). Click here for more information
New Hopes and Challenges for the Protection of IDPs in Africa:
The Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of
Internally Displaced Persons in Africa