Access to Socio-Economic Rights for Refugees in Africa: Some Recommendations

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Tags: access to socio-economic rights refugees sub-saharan Africa


  1. States need to make more efforts to collectively address the root causes of forced displacement to effectively tackle the refugee crisis on the continent. Many African countries are shouldering the burden of hosting refugees and this is putting their financial resources under stress. It is imperative that States use their capacities to find adequate and collective solutions for refugees, as proposed by the 2016 Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees drafted by the United Nations.
  2. It is necessary to establish a regional body able to coordinate refugee protection on the continent. The 1969 OAU Convention, in fact, does not make provision for a regional institution or agency to handle the problem of refugees and IDPs. This leaves all responsibilities relating to the application of the UN and OAU Refugee Conventions to the ‘informal’ supervision of the UNHCR and other organisations, both governmental and non-governmental.
  3. There is a need to develop operational guidelines for the conduct of procedures in situations of mass influx to identify refugees in need of protection. Refugees’ admission policies should be in line with these obligations and international law.
  4. In those countries where refugees are readily admitted, the treatment received by host states is not always consistent with the provisions of the 1969 OAU Convention. Therefore, it is necessary to uphold the existing legal obligations and normative framework to protect refugees. International, regional and sub-regional instruments need to be ratified and domesticated and, where in place, reservations to the 1951 Convention should be lifted. In this respect, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons is mandated to promote implementation of both the UN and OAU Refugee Conventions.
  5. Hosting countries need to guarantee refugees and IDPs access to primary health-care, basic education and employment. In particular, the right to work which is protected by international and regional human rights instruments, as well as many national constitutions, is essential to preserve human dignity and to promote self-reliance amongst the displaced population. African States that are home to large refugee populations do not have adequate resources to provide for the needs of their own population and, therefore, foreign aid should aim to strengthen basic service provision in order to improve services for both nationals and non-nationals.
  6. States should promote durable solutions for refugees, especially for those in protracted refugee situations, including resettlement opportunities. While the UNHCR continues its efforts towards the resettlement of African refugees in traditional resettlement countries, there is a need for African States to reinvigorate intra-African resettlement of refugees as provided by the 1969 OAU Convention.
  7. Whenever possible, hosting states should facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of refugees, especially those who have been living for decades in protracted refugee situations. In particular, the denial of nationality has a negative impact on the realisation of children’s socio-economic rights, such as access to health care and education.
  8. The establishment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1987, which has protective and promotional mandates, offers refugees and asylum-seekers the possibility to seek protection against violations of their rights, including arbitrary expulsion, refoulement and discrimination. However, States Parties are often not accountable and not compliant with regard to their reporting obligations. Therefore, it is pivotal to strengthen follow-up mechanisms to enforce the recommendations of the African Commission.
  9. The creation of alternative opportunities and ‘complementary pathways’ to legally enter a country are necessary to diversify solutions for refugees. In this regard, the promotion of regularised labour migration can offer solutions to the livelihood needs, in particular of those refugees who have been for many years in a protracted refugee situation.

Tags: access to socio-economic rights  refugees  sub-saharan Africa  

Categorised in: Report