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Yohannes Gebresellasie (Ph.d) Addis Ababa


Some of the options that help stop or at least decreased the refugees’ movements in Africa are Voluntary Repatriation, Organized Settlement in first counters of asylum and Re-settlement in second country of asylum.

Voluntary Reparation.

 Many scholars argue that voluntarily reparation is the ideal option that can bring a durable solution to the refugee problem in the continent of Africa.

For the millions of African refugees, voluntary repatriation seems in long-term the only realistic solution. In the African context especially, the sense of attachment which refugee have towards the physical and social environments of their homeland is very strong. Resent history has repeatedly demonstrated that when conditions have changed for the better African refuges waste no time in setting out on the road back home. Voluntary repatriation has taken place more often in Africa than in any other part of the world because African refugees consider their country of asylum as a temporarily place, a place to stay until conditions are favorable to return

For example, the largest repatriation has been that of the southern sedans from Central African Republic, Zaire, Uganda and Ethiopia. Approximately 170,000 refugees returned to Sudan between 1972-74. Voluntary repatriation, although considered to be the ideal solution to the refugees problem in Africa, it is not without problems. For instant unstable governments, continues conflicts, lack of receptions center to return,  lack of funding to re-establish return, problems of re-adjustments and re-assimilation of returns (particularly if they have children who were born and grew up in country of asylum), lack of security and safety etc. slow down its implementation.

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Article v of the AU (African union ) states that ‘’the essentially volunteer characteristics of repatriation shall be respected in all case ‘’ and calls on countries of origin and asylum to ‘’make adducted arrangements for the safe return of refugees who request repatriation, refugees who choose to return ‘’ it says ‘’shall in no way be penalized for having left ‘’ they should be granted the ‘’full right and privilege enjoyed by other citizen, ‘people who freely decide to return to their homeland’’, the article concludes ‘’shall be given early possible assistant by the country of origin, voluntary agencies international and inter-governmental organizations.’’ such a proclamation of African leaders sounds good and looks good on paper; however, there is no guaranty what so ever that these African country, members of the AU shall respect the AU charter on refugees. In fact, many African countries have the worst record of violating basic human rights. Therefore, in order to successfully carry out voluntarily repatriation, the following seven principles of voluntarily repatriation must be respected by all governments. 

  1. The first principle is that refugees have a right to return voluntarily to their country of origin. This right, recognized in international low is normally respected by country of origin. Refugees wishing to repatriate have, however, sometimes been harassed and efforts have been made to prevent them from returning. Such impeding actions, from a Varity of sources are often done for political reasons. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR), in these case works closely with all concerned authorities to protect those seeking to return voluntarily.
  2. It’s a fundamental principle of the highest degree that repatriation of the refugees must only take place at the freely expressed wish of the refugees’ themselves….
  3. Voluntarily repatriation must be done under condition of safety and dignity preferably to the refugees‘place of residence in their country of origin.
  4. The UNHCR must monitor the fulfillments of that assurance.
  5. The UNHCR whenever appropriate must take initiatives to promote voluntarily repatriation; the promotion for voluntarily repatriation , however can only be done where the circumstance which gave a rise to refugees movements have changed fundamentally and to an extent to permit return in safety and dignity.
  6. International action in favors of voluntarily repatriation should receive the full supporter and cooperation of all stake holders.
  7. The   UNHCR should establish and implement assistance programs for the returnees.

Planned Settlement.

 When condition become unfavorable for voluntarily repatriation, a planned settlement of refugees in first country of asylum becomes an alternative the objective of such an option must be to make refugees self structure of the host country. Some African countries have been successfully in doing so. For example, Tanzania provided assistance to a large member of the refugees from various countries in southern Africa. Many refugees have become self –reliant as they have been fully integrated in to Tanzania’s society due to the fact that some 36,000 Rwandese refugees became citizens of Tanzania in 1980 in one of the largest mass naturalized in recent history. Other African nations that had similar successes include Uganda and Burundi while few other countries had difficulties implementing the issue in question. Some scholars such as John Rogee argue why some countries have problem of settling their refugees population. Problems arise  because of the scarcity of suitable land for such settlement especially in some of the area’s most in need of land for refugees settlement, external capital availability has also declaimed even though the total budget of aid agencies continue to escalate and ore and as more of this aid is being diverted to emergency relief projects. It is also become clear that refugees are becoming less willing to be institutionalized on settlement; instead, they often prefer to take their chance in the urban areas.

Resettlement of refugees

Resettlement of refugees outside Africa and within the industrialized countries is another alternative to solve the refugees problem of Africa although it is true that the vast majority of African refugees have not benefited from such an option. A few skilled and highly educated African refugees have however had an opportunity to reside in a second country of asylum. Scholars of different disciplines argue that lack of knowledge and thus lack of communication with the developed country, high transportation cost, lack of skills etc are the factors why majority of African refugees remain in first country of asylum i.e. in Africa. The truth however is that the developed countries have very high standards of refugees’ selection and refugees processing policy that even the skilled and educated African refugees can hardly meet. Some industrialized countries use family unification while others use age, gender, language, etc. as a base for selection their refugees. For example, France has traditionally given preference to French speakers and to people who served during the French colonial administration. On the other hand, Australia admits refugees who have been determined to have the necessarily personal characteristics to settle successfully in that country. This shows that it is up to the individual nation to unilaterally determine the number and the type of refugees it is willing to admit. All complexity ads up to make resettlement program rather difficult and this raises the question whether or not such an option can be regarded as one of the solutions to the African refugees problem. It is important to note that as long as the number of African urban refugees continues to increase and continues to crowed the few cities and town of host African countries and as long as these host countries are unable to integrate their refugees with their indigenous community, the demands of African refugees to settle in economically better off countries will also increase.  . 

Resettlement program have triple advantages First and foremost, African refugees can through such program achieve socio- economic and political freedom and become self-reliant in the politically and economically stabile counties. Second, African refugees can help their families whom they left behind through programs such as sponsorship, family reunification, etc. Third, African refuges can also provide financial assistant to the people they left behind thereby improving situation of their relatives who remain in first country of asylum.


Taking these factors in to consideration resettling Africa refugees in the developed countries has to be considered as one solution to the African refugee’s problem. It is also important therefore that scholars, international governmental and humanitarian institution and most importantly the developed nation give equal importance to such an option thereby reducing some of the burden of host African nations.


 It is believed that the problem of refugees is associated within the absence of fundamental human rights within the refugees countries’ of origin often exacerbated by direct or indirect foreign intervention. Therefore, this problem is part of the global problem. The solution to such problem should not be left to Africans alone, for only through the joint cooperation of the international community can a durable and long term solution to such problem be achieved.






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