Around 500 Central African Refugees Return Home After Years in Exile 

Around 500 Central African Refugees Return Home After Years in Exile 
Photo: (Left) A family of refugees from the Central African Republic returning to their home country on October 22, 2021, Rolf Steve Domia Leu, Radio Ndeke Luka.  Photo: (Right) Boats transporting refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Central African Republic across the Ubangi river, Ghislaine Nentobo, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 
Around 500 Central African Refugees Return Home After Years in Exile 

Anna Mamedova

Africa and Human Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defense. 

On October 22, 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a United Nations agency tasked with protecting the refugees and forcibly displaced people, resumed its voluntary tripartite repatriation program in cooperation with the governments of the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The voluntary repatriation program, first launched in November 2019, is aimed at helping CAR nationals who fled from their home country due to violence and insecurity perpetrated by armed rebel groups into the neighboring DRC to return to the CAR safely. The Central African refugees who agree to return to their home country receive financial compensation and benefit from joint reintegration projects of the UNHCR and the CAR government in various areas of life, ranging from agriculture to education. 

The program was forced to halt its activities in March 2020 due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and was once again postponed in December 2020 due to election violence in the CAR. However, in October 2021, the situation stabilized enough for the UNHCR to resume its operations. In the afternoon hours of October 22, 2021, around 250 (two hundred fifty) Central African refugees were repatriated from the Molè refugee camp located in the DRC’s South Ubangi province to the CAR. The refugees were first transported in trucks into the city of Zongo and then chartered on boats across the Ubangi river to Bangui, the capital of the CAR. The second repatriation convoy took place four days later, on October 26, 2021, and safely repatriated another 250  (two hundred fifty) refugees. 

On the same day, October 26, 2021, during the press briefing at the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, the UNHCR spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, reaffirmed her organization’s commitment to continue supporting Central African refugees and forcibly displaced persons in the DRC. Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo revealed that around 10,000 (ten thousand) people currently residing in refugee camps across the DRC expressed their willingness to return to the CAR; until the end of 2021, the UNHCR is planning to repatriate 6,500 (six thousand five hundred) of them. Furthermore, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo reaffirmed that the lives of repatriated refugees are not in danger, as they are being brought to secure areas in the CAR, such as the capital city of Bangui, as well as Lobaye and Ombella-M’Poko prefectures. Lastly, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo revealed that more voluntary repatriation missions targeting a larger number of refugee settlements in the DRC are planned in the coming months. 

Sources and further reading: 

Central African Republic: more than 200 Central African refugees from Congo return to the fold, Radio Ndene Lula, 23 October 2021, 

UNHCR restarts operation to help return of refugees from the Central African Republic, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 26 October 2021, 

Voluntary Repatriation of Refugees to Central African Republic from DR Congo Restarts, Voice of America, 27 October 2021,