UN refugee chief underlines importance of peace in C.A.R. refugee return program

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits the Alternatif site for displaced people in the Central African Republic city of Bambari./ UNHCR Photo

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has called for peace in the Central African Republic to ensure a successful reintegration of refugees returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Grandi, who is on a three-day visit to the country, also pledged his organisation’s support to ensure the returning refugees receive humanitarian assistance.

“There will be no peace without the return of a large part of the population that is displaced, but there will be no return without peace,” Grandi said.

The UNHCR said it had helped return some 13,500 people back home since 2017, in addition to an estimated 127,000 spontaneous returns since 2016. Returnees said improved security in their areas of origin and the peace agreement between the C.A.R. government and armed groups were the main reasons for their decision to return home.

The agency estimates that there are nearly 600,000 refugees from C.A.R. in neighbouring countries, with a similar number also displaced inside its borders.

Grandi said the UNHCR will continue working together with the C.A.R. government to ensure the returning refugees resume their normal lives.

“As well as humanitarian assistance,” he said, “I have committed myself with the government to mobilize as many resources as possible to deal with this challenge.”

The High Commissioner also noted that women needed particular attention in the reintegration process.

“As we move progressively from humanitarian work to rebuilding the lives of these people away from exile into their homes, particular attention must be given to women to take them away from poverty and the exposure to exploitation and violence,” he said.

Grandi met on Wednesday with the C.A.R. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra on Tuesday. The two spoke about the urgency of creating security and development conditions necessary for the sustainable return of Central African refugees and displaced people.

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