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Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these rights; however, in practice, the Government imposed some limitations. During the year, military and police checkpoints, which at times interfered with the movement of civilians, were instituted in connection with reports that opposition exile leader and former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas was planning to return to the country (see Section 1.d.) and during the December attacks on Ninja elements in BaCongo. There were fewer reports of extortion during the year; however, there were reports that soldiers dressed as civilians extorted money from persons on trains carrying goods. In 2002, the Government restricted the movement of persons and organizations to the Pool region, due to the security situation; however, after the March Peace Accord, these restrictions were eased somewhat and citizens, as well as international and local NGOs, returned sporadically to certain accessible areas of the Pool region. By year's end, harassment and intimidation of international organizations was renewed by either uncontrolled elements of the Ninjas or security forces, and some organizations withdrew their expatriate staff from areas in the Pool region where projects had earlier been restarted.
Approximately 100,000 persons who had fled the fighting in the Pool region were internally displaced persons (IDPs) either in IDP camps outside Brazzaville or with families in Brazzaville at the end of 2002. At year's end, the Government, working with international and local NGOs, was assisting IDPs in returning to their villages in the Pool region and the number of IDPs had dropped to 6,000. A government pilot project with assistance from international organizations to provide food, shelter, clinics, and other resources to some accessible Pool region villages had not begun by year's end.
During the civil conflicts, tens of thousands of citizens fled into neighboring countries, particularly Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Approximately 45,000 persons fled to Bas-Congo province, Democratic Republic of the Congo; however, all but approximately 5,000 had been repatriated to the country by the end of 2002. According to UNHCR, there were 803 returnees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 871 returnees from Gabon during the year. Approximately 15,000 citizens fled to Gabon and, according to U.N. figures, 9,000 persons remained, some of whom met with the UNHCR to consider repatriation under the Tripartite Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Congo, the Government of Gabon, and the UNHCR. The UNHCR in Gabon estimated that there were 13,400 Congolese refugees and another 5,700 Congolese asylum seekers currently in Gabon. According to the UNHCR office in Brazzaville, fewer than 700 such persons had returned to the country by year's end given that many had been fully integrated into Gabonese society.
The Constitution provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status to persons who meet the definition in the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. In practice, the Government provided protection against refoulement and granted refugee status or asylum. The country continued to host a few persons from the Central African Republic, a small number of Burundians, and approximately 3,000 mainly Hutu Rwandans, who remained within distinct Rwandan sectors and communities within villages or cities. At year's end, there was only one camp of less than 300 Hutu Rwandans located north of Brazzaville. The UNHCR reported that all Central African Republic refugees had returned home by year's end. During the year, UNHCR continued some assistance to Angolan refugees in Pointe Noire; however, most Angolan refugees either returned to Angola or were integrated into local communities.
In April 2002, authorities arrested and repatriated forcibly to the Democratic Republic of the Congo 19 asylum seekers. Some of these individuals had refugee status applications pending with the UNHCR; however, none had been granted formal refugee status by the UNHCR because of their possible involvement in human rights abuses as members of the former Zairian President Mobutu's army and security forces known as Ex-FAZ. Ex-FAZ families and colleagues, who had received provisional refugee status, remained in the country. At year's end, the Government and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had reached an agreement on repatriating members of the Ex-FAZ under the auspices of the International Office of Migration, although it is reported that only 1,200 of the reported 4,000 wish to return to Democratic Republic of the Congo. The repatriation process had not begun by year's end.
The Government also provided temporary protection to certain individuals who fall outside of the definition of the 1951 U.N. Convention Related to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
« Human Rights Report Introduction
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