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The protection of refugees Under Cameroonian law: challenges and prospects

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This work is about the protection of refugees and challenges and prospects. Here, we examine the protection of refugees using Cameroon as our case study. The work goes further to assess the various refugee rights which are violated. Also, in this work, we examined the various international instruments protecting and preserving the rights of refugees.

In addition, this work goes further to access the legal laws and institutions which protect and preserve the rights of refugees in Cameroon.

By looking at all this, we are going to discover the challenges faced by the International laws and legal institutions, to ensure the successful protection of refugees to an extent.

Furthermore, this work goes further to examine the Anglophone crisis which started in 2016 and has generated since then an armed conflict and causing numerous people to flee away from the country and settle in neighbouring countries and which have put the country under international watch, and due to effort to bring the long crisis to an end.




          The idea of developing bodies of international laws and conventions to protect refugees only began in the 20th century despite the ancient nature of forced displacement and refugee movements. The international community, government and civil societies became more involved as the problem of forced movement escalated and became an international political issue requesting international legal instruments as the framework for their solution.

The incidence offered displacement and its problems have affected many nations including developed, developing and under-developed countries either as refugees producing or receiving countries on both as the case may be. Cameroon is one of the developing countries which creates rooms for refugees.

Cameroon offers a conducive environment for refugees and asylum seekers in Central African, though the country is witnessing a bad economic situation and socio-political tensions due to high unemployment, the Anglophone crisis and the rising cost of living. The deterioration of the security situation in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) and the war in Chad are the constant push factors for refugees to enter Cameroon.

          Cameroon did not have its own legislation concerning the status of refugees. But this does not mean that it was silent on refugee’s affairs. Cameroon was a party or signatory of the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 protocol, (herein after referred to as the 1951 convention) and the 1969 OUA Convention governing specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa.

Then in 2005, Cameroon adopted its own legislation. The adoption of law No 2005/006 of 27th July 2005 relating to the status of refugees in Cameroon. These conventions and laws clearly spelt out who is a refugee and the kind of legal protection, assistance and social rights he or she should receive from the state of Cameroon.

They also provide some obligations for refugee and asylum seekers within and oblige them to respect these obligations in respect of what is expected of them in their country of asylum. The development of refugee law and politics has been slow. Until 2005, Cameroon really had no domestic refugee’s legislation. Instead of having a document relating to refugee rights there were simply referred to as non-nationals and subsumed under the boarder immigration laws.

          It is of great importance to maintain the fact that law No 1990/042 of 1990 which laid down conditions of entry stay and exit in Cameroon, does specifically maintain the term “refugee” it does asset the inviolability of Cameroon’s border and emphasize the necessity of proper documentation for any movement into and out of Cameroon, contrasting with the mobility of the fluids that existed before the institutions of national borders.

Furthermore, the 1997 immigration Act does not mention refugees but states also only that a refugee card will be delivered to people which are qualified for asylum.

          Following the uprising Anglophone crisis in (November 22nd2016), the nation Cameroon has been faced with lots of problems, a massive influx of people from the two Anglophone regions is the North West and South-West regions have filled the West side of Mongo thereby causing overpopulation and as a result, many people who are unable to provide for themselves become homeless, defenceless and hunger has become the order of the day.

This has increased refugee in the nation as people become afraid of their own homeland for fear of death.

          The government of Cameroon is reluctant to handle and solve the political situation of the country has over increased the refugee status of the nation. In addition, with the population that has left other neighbouring countries like Central Africa and Chad, Cameroon becomes a host of its citizens as a refugee.


          In a sub-region scarred by conflict, Cameroon remains a zone of stability, except for its Far North Region. Cameroon is commonly known as an “Oasis of Peace in the turbulence desert” has become a safe-heaven for a significant number of refugees. In 2005, Cameroon adopted a national law relating to states of refugees”.

It is the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yaoundé that hear claims and make decisions on refugee’s states. Asylum seekers register through the Saille (office) of UNHCR officer in Yaoundé. Applicants receive appointment ships for eligibility interviews and up to 5months for such interviews.

The law permits applicants to appeal within 30days of notification but does not allow ordinary courts to review decisions. Applicants submit their appeals to a UNHCR officer and hearing are scheduled by the statute UNHCR office within 3 months. No known case of refugee receiving legal representation by a lawyer has been documented. In short, there is no legal aid for refugees in Cameroon.

          Cameroon is a party to the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees.

In 2007, Cameroon hosted a total population of refugees and asylum seekers of approximately 97, 400 of these 49,300 were from the Central Africa Republic due to war. 41,600 from Chad and 2,900 from Nigeria kidnappings of Cameroonian citizens by Central African bandit have increased since 2005 and from 2016 to 2017 more than 80,000 Cameroonian have become refugees with the national territory and in neighbouring countries.

          The 2005 law, applies the refugee definition of both conventions and prohibits “refoulement” of refugees and asylum seekers for reasons other than national security and public order pursuant to lawful order and with 72-hour notice to the UNHCR.

As a result of the refugee influx, as a result of refugee flux, resources in communities hosting refugees are now stretched beyond capacity. Growing competition for food, water and access to essential services such as health care between refugees and host families threaten thousands of lives.  

          In addition, the mass influx of IDP’s to other places caused by the current Anglophone crisis has had many consequences.

The government of Cameroon been unable to handle the problem of the North West and South West region of the country has made the international community to question Cameroon whether is corresponding to the terms of the 2005 Refugee convention which has been for more than 3years because little has been done to resolve the crisis as the government deployed its troops to these regions to further cause insecurity an undue fear.


          This research seeks to answer the following questions:

1.3.1 Main Research Question

  • What are the mechanisms put in place to protect and enforce refugee rights in International Law?
  • What is the legal framework for the protection of refugees in Cameroon?

1.3.2 Specific Research Questions

  • How effective is the protection of refugees in Cameroon?
  • What policy recommendations can be made to address the problems identified?


1.4.1 General Objective

          The goal of this research is to examine the extent to which the refugees are protected under the Cameroon legal framework.

1.4.2 Specific Objectives

  • To examine the mechanisms put in place to protect and enforce refugee rights in international law.
  • To discuss the legal framework on the protection of refugees in Cameroon.
  • To assess the effectiveness of the protection of refugee rights in Cameroon.
  • To make policy recommendations to address the problems identified.

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