UNIVERSITE DE YAOUNDE II
THE UNIVERSITY OF YAOUNDE II
INSTITUT DES RELATIONS
INTERNATIONALES DU CAMEROUN
B.P.: 1637 Yaoundé
Tel: (237) 22 31 03 05
Télécopie: (237) 22 31 89 99
Site web : www.iricuy2.net
INSTITUTE OF CAMEROON
P.O Box: 1637 Yaoundé
Tel: (237) 22 31 03 05
Fax: (237) 22 31 89 99
Web site: www.iricuy2.net
A Thesis presented and publicly defended in partial fulfilment of the Requirements for the
Award of a Professional Master’s Degree in International Relations
Specialisation: International Disputes and Conflict Management
TAYIMLONG Robert AFUH
The Social Protection of Refugees in Cameroon
To my aunt, Stella FEKA née NIBOH ANUMBUDEM, in appreciation for her
Although I am responsible for the arguments in this study, I received a great deal of assistance
along the way from a couple of individuals and institutions. I owe a profound debt of gratitude
to Pr. Laurent ZANG and Dr. Melvis NDILOSEH who were willing to spend their valuable
time reading and commenting on the manuscript.
I appreciate the entire staff of IRIC particularly Dr. WERIWOH O. MBANG who assisted me
to secure an internship position at the Embassy of Cameroon in Berlin, Germany in
September 2011. While in Berlin, I twice visited a refugee camp where I experienced and
learnt about what I consider to be ideal social protection policies of the German government.
It was then that I decided to investigate the social situation of refugees in Cameroon.
My regards equally go to Sandrine TANTOH and Pisso NSEKE who provided me with
logistical support in the course of data collection. I also remain grateful to Serge NTAMACK,
ex-student of IRIC, now diplomat within the ranks of the Ministry of External Relations, for
helping me adopt the outline for the study. As the final draft was being completed, my course
mates, Rolande NGOUFACK and Aristide AMOUGOU AGBOR proofread to reduce the
margin of error to the barest minimum. I am indebted to them for their pivotal
recommendations. I likewise benefited from the assistance of another classmate of mine,
senior translator at the Ministry of External Relations, Blaise TAPON, who converted the
abstract of the work (English) into the résume (French).
I am very pleased with the management of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights and
Democracy in Central Africa for helping me realise this study by providing a rich intellectual
environment and generous research support through their well equipped library.
I as well thank the AFUH’s, FEKA’s, VUSWEEH’s, NIBOH’s and TAZOH’s families for
their tremendous moral and financial support all through my years in school and during the
period of this study. Lastly, the contribution of Wilson WALKIL SABIT is laudable. This
South Sudanese refugee provided me with information concerning the association affairs of
refugees in Cameroon. Having sought refuge in seven African countries in two decades, I can
only wish him a safe return back home as he plans to.
I will end by craving the indulgence of all those who contributed to the realisation of this
work but whose names have not been mentioned.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
ACHPR: African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
ADRA: Adventist Development and Relief Agency
AHA: Africa Humanitarian Action
ALVF: Association de la Lutte Contre les Violences faites aux Femmes
AU: African Union
AUC: African Union Commission
CAT: Convention against Torture
CAR: Central African Republic
CCAPRRI: Coordinating Committee on Assistance and Protection to Refugees,
Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons
CCRC : Collectif des Communautés des Réfugiés au Cameroun
CEMAC: Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa
CIAH: Collectif inter Africain des Habilitants
CRDC: Communauté des Refugies et Demandeurs d’asile du Congo Démocratique
CRS: Catholic Relief Services
CPPJ: Centre de Perfectionnement à la Police Judicaire
DAFI: Deutsche Akademische Flüchtlings Initiative Albert Einstein
DGSN: General Delegation for National Security
ECOSOC: Economic and Social Council
ERUs: Emergency Response Units
FAO: Food and Agricultural Organisation
GBV: Gender-based Violence
GCE: General Certificate of Education
GESP: Growth and Employment Strategy Paper
HARDP: Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons
IAPSC: Inter African Phyto-Sanitary Council
ICCPR: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ICESCR: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
ICJ: International Court of Justice
ICRC: International Committee of the Red Cross
ICTs: Information and Communication Technologies
IDPs: Internally Displaced Persons
IFRC: International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
IGAs: Income Generating Activities
IGOs: International Governmental Organisations
IMC: International Medical Corps
IOM: International Organisation for Migration
ILO: International Labour Organisation
IPU: Inter-Parliamentary Union
IRD: International Relief and Development
IRIC: International Relations Institute of Cameroon
MDGs: Millennium Development Goals
MINAS: Ministry of Social Affairs
MINATD: Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation
MINEDUC: Ministry of Basic Education
MINJUSTICE: Ministry of Justice
MINPROFF: Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family
MINREX: Ministry of External Relations
MINSANTE: Ministry of Public Health
MMUs: Mobile Medical Units
MOU: Memorandum of Understanding
NCHRF: National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms
NGOs: Non-Governmental Organisations
OAU: Organisation of African Unity
ODI: Overseas Development Institute
OHCHR: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
RECs: Regional Economic Communities
REWAC: Refugee Welfare Association
RH: Reproductive Health
SADC: Southern Africa Development Community
UDHR: Universal Declaration of Human Rights
UN: United Nations
UNCRC: United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
UNDP: United Nations Development Programme
UNFPA: United Nations Population Fund
UNGA: United Nations General Assembly
UNHCHR: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UNHCR: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
UNO: United Nations Organisation
UNTC: United Nations Treaty Collection
USA: United States of America
WATSAN: Water and Sanitation
WFP: World Food Programme
WHO: World Health Organisation
LIST OF APPENDICES
Appendix One: Interview Guide
Appendix Two: Law N° 2005/006 of 27 July 2005 on the Status of Refugees in Cameroon
Appendix Three: Decree N° 2011/389 of 28 November 2011 on the Organisation and
Functioning of Organs of Management of Refugee Status
Appendix Four: Ministerial Order N° 0013/DIPL/CAB of 6 August 2012 Appointing
Members of the Commission of Eligibility for the Status of Refugee
Appendix Five: Ministerial Order N° 0014/DIPL/CAB of 6 August 2012 Appointing
Members of the Commission of Appeals of Refugees
This study, titled “The Social Protection of Refugees in Cameroon” was conducted to
examine the extent to which the social protection of refugees in Cameroon was in conformity
with international standards. The study was therefore aimed at analysing the legal basis for the
social protection of refugees in Cameroon and establishing the role of the various stakeholders
at the universal, regional and national levels. It was also intended to unveil the challenges
encountered and propose policies to ameliorate the social plight of refugees.
The theory of “Implicit Burden-Sharing” developed by Torun DEWAN and Eiko
THIELEMANN (2006) and that of “Human Motivation” by Abraham MASLOW (1943) are
used in this study.
The main hypothesis of the study centred on the fact that the social protection of refugees in
Cameroon was in conformity with international standards. To test this hypothesis, the
qualitative research method was applied. Refugee related legal instruments were analysed
while data were also collected from interviews with major stakeholders in the field of refugee
protection in Cameroon. Academic publications, organisational reports and internet sources
were equally important for the study. The data analysed revealed that there has been
enormous progress in meeting international standards in the areas of education, emergency
relief and assistance, protection of women, children and the family, security of person, and
freedom of association and assembly. This can be attributed to the minimal cost or burden
incurred in responding to these aspects of social protection. The results also indicated that
much remain to be desired in such areas as nutrition, shelter, health care, freedom of
movement and very importantly, employment and social security due to the high costs.
Recommendations include the amendment of the legal instruments that provide the normative
framework for protection and improvement of protection policies to reflect the changing
The principal conclusion was that there is a glimmer of hope with the new structural
modifications in Cameroon’s Ministry of External Relations, notably the creation of a sub-
Department for Relations with the International Organisation for Migration and the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Key words: Cameroon - UNHCR - social protection - refugees - norms - institutions -
operational partners - implementing partners.
Cette étude articulée autour de la protection sociale des réfugiés au Cameroun a été effectuée
afin d’examiner le niveau de conformité aux standards internationaux de la protection sociale
des réfugiés au Cameroun. Le but de l’étude était d’analyser la base juridique de la protection
sociale des réfugiés au Cameroun et d’établir le rôle des différents intervenants aux niveaux
universel, régional et national. Il était également question de dévoiler les défis rencontrés et
de proposer des politiques pour améliorer la situation sociale des réfugiés.
La théorie de « Partage implicite du fardeau » développée par Torun DEWAN et Eiko
THIELEMANN (2006) et la « Théorie de la motivation humaine » d’Abraham MASLOW
(1943) sont utilisées dans cette étude.
La principale hypothèse était articulée autour du fait que la protection sociale des réfugiés au
Cameroun était conforme aux standards internationaux. Pour la vérifier, la méthode de
recherche qualitative a été appliquée. Les instruments juridiques relatifs aux réfugiés ont été
analysés de même que des données ont été collectées à travers des entretiens avec les
principaux intervenants dans le domaine de la protection des réfugiés au Cameroun. Les
publications académiques, rapports institutionnels et ressources en ligne ont également
constitué d’importantes ressources pour cette étude. Les données analysées ont révélé que des
progrès considérables ont été réalisés vers l’atteinte des standards internationaux dans les
domaines de l’éducation, du secours et de l’assistance d’urgence, de la protection des femmes,
des enfants et de la famille, la sécurité des personnes, et de la liberté d’association et de
réunion. Ceci peut être dû au coût ou fardeau minimal qui découle de la prise en compte des
aspects de la protection sociale. Les résultats ont également indiqué que beaucoup reste à faire
dans les domaines tels que la construction de centres d’accueil, les soins de santé, la liberté de
mouvement et, plus important encore, l’emploi et la sécurité sociale du fait des coûts élevés.
Entre autres recommandations, l’amendement des instruments juridiques qui constituent le
cadre normatif de la protection et de l’amélioration des politiques de protection à l’effet de
prendre en considération les nouvelles dynamiques.
La principale conclusion à laquelle nous sommes parvenus est qu’il y a une lueur d’espoir
avec la nouvelle configuration structurelle du ministère camerounais des Relations
extérieures, notamment avec la création d’une sous-direction chargée des Relations avec
l’Organisation Internationale des Migrations et le Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour
Mots-clés : le Cameroun - les réfugiés - la protection sociale - les normes - les institutions - le
HCR - les partenaires opérationnels - les partenaires de mise en œuvre.
PART ONE: THE NORMATIVE AND INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORKS FOR THE
SOCIAL PROTECTION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON..................................................20
CHAPTER ONE: THE NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR THE SOCIAL PROTECTION
OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON……………………………………………………….…..22
I: Universal Instruments………………………...................………………………………….22
II: Other Universal Instruments Reinforcing the Social Protection of
III: Regional Instruments………..................…………………………………………………42
IV: National Instruments…………………………………………….................………..……46
CHAPTER TWO: THE INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE SOCIAL
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON………………………………………….52
I: Universal Institutional Framework for the Social Protection of Refugees in
II: Regional Institutional Framework for the Social Protection of Refugees in
III: National Institutional Framework for the Social Protection of Refugees in
PART TWO: THE SOCIAL SITUATION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON: A
REFLECTION OF THE PROTECTIVE ROLE OF STAKEHOLDERS................................73
CHAPTER THREE: MEASURES OF MAJOR STAKEHOLDERS IN THE SOCIAL
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON.................................................................75
I: The Complementary Role of the UNHCR and its Operational and Implementing
II: The Role of Associate United Nations Agencies.................................................................93
CHAPTER FOUR: CHALLENGES ENCOUNTERED IN THE SOCIAL PROTECTION OF
REFUGEES IN CAMEROON AND POLICY CONSIDERATIONS....................................99
I: Challenges and Constraints...................................................................................................99
II: Policy Considerations.........................................................................................................109
It is irrefutable that since the end of the Second World War and the drafting of the United
Nations Charter, the scourge of war is still bringing untold sorrow to mankind. In fact, in
2011, conflicts worldwide reportedly forced a record 800 thousand people to flee their homes.
That same year, there were 42.5 million displaced persons around the globe, amongst whom
were 15.2 million refugees1
including 4.8 million Palestinians2
. Pakistan was host to the
highest number of refugees with approximately 1.7 million seeking international protection in
the country. The leading countries of origin of refugees were Afghanistan (2.7 million) and
Iraq (1.4 million)3
, most likely because of the U.S-led coalition interventions in these
countries. Meantime, Africa’s leading country of refugee origin was Somalia with an
estimated 1.1 million.
While the Middle East remains one of the most volatile regions in the world, the protection of
refugees in Africa and Cameroon in particular is increasingly becoming a cause for concern
amidst the growing insecurity in the region. These range from civil wars, post-election
violence, human rights abuses, food crises, terrorism, hostage-taking, religious extremism,
etc. At the global level, a giant step towards refugee protection was first taken in 1951,
enshrined in the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol
which, as of 2011, had both entered into force in 142 States including Cameroon (23 October
1961 and 19 September 1967 respectively)4
. While 2011 marked the 60th
anniversary of the
Geneva Convention, other vital steps have been taken from regional perspectives. As far as
Africa is concerned, the 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention governing the
Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa was a milestone for the setting of standards
for the protection of refugees in Africa. By 2011, it had entered into force in 45 States,
Cameroon inclusive (7 September 1985)5
. Over the years, these legal instruments have been
consolidated by many other diplomatic and international forums that fall within the
framework of the plight of refugees. Cameroon’s accession, succession and ratification of the
Cable News Network (CNN), “World Report,” World Refugee Day, 20 June 2012.
Refugees International, “Who is a Refugee?” Available at www.refintl.org [Accessed: 3 July 2012].
ibid., CNN holds the same view.
UNHCR, “State Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol”. Available at
www.unhcr.org [Accessed: 3 February 2012]. It is important to note that as of 1 April 2011, not all State parties to the 1951
Convention were parties to its 1967 Protocol. There are 144 States parties to the 1951 Convention, 145 for its 1967 Protocol,
142 for both and 147 for one or both of the instruments.
Oxford Journals, “State Parties to the 1969 OAU Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in
Africa.” Available at oxfordjournals.org [Accessed: 3 February 2012].
major international instruments governing refugee issues constitute a strong indication of the
government’s commitment to ameliorate the plight of these vulnerable persons. The adoption
of Law N° 2005/006 of 27 July 2005 on refugee status in Cameroon depicts a reinforcement
of this commitment.
According to AÏDA HAILE Mariam6
, former Resident Representative of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees to Cameroon, the country has the reputation of being a host
terrain par excellence for refugees. To the effect of being relatively stable, it has become a
magnet for refugees from neighbouring countries, where violence, disease and hunger are
. However, it goes without saying that Cameroon is not exempted from the
enormous challenges faced by every host State. One of such challenges is the overstretching
of already limited resources, making it cumbersome to meet the demands for subsistence of
additional refugee populations8
. This is especially so in situations of massive refugee influx.
As a result, the willingness expressed by host States is hardly commensurate to expected
action. As NGOLLE NGOLLE9
noted, a major reason for this contrast might be that “the
share of assistance received by African refugees from the international community is
disproportionate to their sheer numbers but also considerably lower than the share received by
refugees in other regions of the world.”
The commemoration of the 60th
anniversary of the 1951 Convention was therefore an
occasion to evaluate these challenges and rally renewed support and commitments to the
fundamental treaties enabling the State parties and the UN Refugee Agency to provide
protection and assistance to refugees worldwide. The forum was described as “a unique
opportunity … to discuss and shape the evolution of the international protection system over
the next decade10
.” The obligation of States to assume their fair duty therefore means
Jocelyne NDOUYOU-MOULIOM, “Refugiés, Le Cameroun invité à la réunion interministérielle,” Cameroon tribune, 17
November 2011, p. 3. AÏDA HAILE Mariam was then the resident representative of the UNHCR to Cameroon. She was
replaced by Ndeye NDIOUGUE NDOUR in 2012.
International Medical Corps, “Our Work in Cameroon.” Available at
https://internationalmedicalcorps.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=533 [Accessed: 15 April 2013].
Hector Gros ESPIELL, Sonia PICADO and Leo Valladares LANZA, “Principles and Criteria for the Protection of and
Assistance to Central American Refugees,” International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 2 (1), 1990, pp. 83-117.
Elvis NGOLLE NGOLLE Otto, “The African Refugee and the Distribution of International Refugee Assistance in
Comparative Perspective: An Empirical Analysis of the Policies of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) 1960-1980.” Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Denver: The Faculty of the Graduate School of International Studies,
University of Denver, Colorado, 1985.
UNHCR, “UN Urges Better Protection for World’s forcibly Displaced, Stateless People.” Available at www.un.org
[Accessed: 3 February 2012]. See the speech of the High Commissioner, António GUTERRES, to a landmark meeting on the
displaced and stateless, 7 December 2011.
“guaranteeing … adequate integration policies that contribute to social harmony11
.” By this
assertion, social protection can be considered a major pillar of the refugee protection regime.
0.2 DEFINITION AND CLARIFICATION OF KEY CONCEPTS
The definition of a refugee has registered many but, more or less, similar definitions among
scholars and institutions involved in the protection of refugees. The 1951 Geneva Convention
relating to the Status of Refugees provides a more universally accepted definition of the term.
This Convention states that a refugee is any person “who owing to a well-founded fear of
persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group
or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such
fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a
nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such
events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it12
.” The emphasis in this
definition is on the protection of persons from political or other forms of persecution13
ethnic, tribal and religious violence are equally leading reasons for which refugees flee their
The 1969 OAU Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa,
expanded the definition found in the 1951 Convention to include a more contextual
consideration, specifically of “every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation,
foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of
his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in
order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality15
A colloquium of Latin American government representatives and distinguished jurists, in
1984 adopted the Cartagena Declaration which, like that of the OAU, added a new element to
the refugee definition provided for by the 1951 Convention. The declaration added persons
Article 1 (2) of the Convention.
Cited in UNHCR, “Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.” Available at
www.unhcr.org/3b666C2aa10.htmb56 [Accessed 9 August 2012].
USA for UNHCR, “Who is a Refugee?” Available at www.unrefugees.org [Accessed: 3 February 2012]. USA for
UNHCR is the acronym for the United States Association for Refugees. It supports the UNHCR’s work to protect and assist
refugees around the world.
Article 1 (2) of the Convention.
who flee their countries “because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by
generalised violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights
or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order16
Last, but not the least, according to SHACKNOVE, “the predominant, generation-old
conception advanced by international instruments, municipal statutes and scholarly treatises
identifies the refugee as in essence, a person who has crossed an international frontier because
of a well-founded fear of persecution17
Although all the aforementioned definitions have elements of relevance to this study, that
provided by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is retained given the
universal acceptance of the definition.
2.2 Social Protection
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines social protection as “the provision of
benefits to households and individuals through public or collective arrangements to protect
against low or declining living standards18
On its part, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) defines it as “public actions taken in
response to levels of vulnerability, risk and deprivation which are deemed socially
unacceptable within a given polity or society19
Social protection is also defined as “all interventions from public, private and voluntary
organisations and informal networks to support communities, households and individuals in
their efforts to prevent, manage and overcome risks and vulnerabilities and enhance the social
status and rights of the marginalised20
Conclusion N° 3 of the Colloquium (cited in the Cartagena Declaration).
Andrew E. SHACKNOVE, “Who is a Refugee?” Ethics, Vol. 95, (2), 1985, p. 274.
Rachel SABATES-WHEELER and Myrtha WAITE, Migration and Social Protection: A Concept Paper, Sussex: Institute
of Development Studies, December 2003, p. 5.
ibid., p. 5.
This definition, set out in the proposal for the research project on ‘Social Protection and Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa:
Case Studies on Access, Portability and Inclusion,’ is cited in Mpho MAKHEMA, “Social Protection for Refugees and
Asylum Seekers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC),” 2009, p. 4.
The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development considers social protection to
be concerned with “preventing, managing, and overcoming situations that adversely affect
people’s well being.” According to this definition, social protection consists of policies and
programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets,
diminishing people’s exposure to risks, and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and
social risks, such as unemployment, exclusion, sickness, disability and old age21
By placing contextual emphases on living standards, human rights, vulnerability and well-
being, the aforementioned definitions of social protection are consistent with the context of
2.3 Distinction between Refugees and other related Concepts
The concept of refugee is often mistaken for other categories of vulnerable persons that are
equally of concern to the UNHCR. These include asylum-seekers, internally displaced
persons, returnees and stateless persons. Defining these categories serves the purpose of
distinguishing them from the refugee.
2.3.1 Asylum-seeker: “Asylum-seeker” is a general term for a person who has not yet
received a decision on his or her claim for refugee status. It could refer to someone who has
not yet submitted an application or someone who is waiting for an answer. Not every asylum-
seeker ultimately gets recognised as a refugee. In 1992, the UNHCR Executive Committee
stated that “the institution of asylum, which derives directly from the right to seek and enjoy
asylum set out in Article 14 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is among the
most basic mechanisms for the international protection of refugees22
” (Conclusion N° 28 (c)).
Asylum serves two purposes: it provides a framework for protection and ensures that
solutions to the problems of refugees can be pursued23
. In 2011, a total of 895 thousand
individual applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted to governments and
UNHCR offices in 166 countries24
Kate JASTRAM, Marilyn ACHIRON and UNHCR, Refugee Protection: A Guide to International Refugee Law. Geneva:
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), 2001, p. 44.
Refugees International, “Who is an asylum seeker?” Available at www.refintl.org [Accessed: 3 July 2012].
2.3.2 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): Francis DENG25
defines internally displaced
persons as individuals who have involuntarily left their homes and communities due to natural
disasters, war and economic activities. This change of place of residences according to him,
quite often takes place within the same country.
To complement DENG, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,
considers internally displaced persons to be “persons or groups of persons who have been
forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular
as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised
violence, violations of human rights or natural or human made disasters, and who have not
crossed an internationally recognised State border26
In general, unlike refugees, IDPs are neither protected by international law nor eligible to
receive many types of aid but they have many protection needs as refugees and are of concern
to the mandate of the UNHCR27
, given their large numbers. In 2011, there were an estimated
26.5 million people displaced internally with the largest population found in Sudan and South
Sudan (2.2 to 4.8 million28
). Although IDPs outnumber refugees by more than double, no
single United Nations agency or other international organisation has the responsibility of
responding to internal displacement29
2.3.3 Returnee: A returnee is a former refugee who has returned to his or her home country.
The majority of refugees prefer to return home as soon as it is safe to do so, and the country
undergoing post conflict reconstruction30
2.3.4 Stateless Person: A stateless person is someone who is not considered to be a national
by any State under the operation of its law. He or she may, but not necessarily be a refugee31
The 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons helps regulate and improve
the status of stateless persons and helps ensure that they enjoy fundamental rights and
Cited in Lawrence EBOT AGBOR, “The International Protection of Refugees in Africa: The Case of the Great Lakes
Region.” Unpublished DESS Dissertation, Yaoundé: International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC), 2000.
United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, “Introduction – Scope and Purpose, N° 1” p. 1.
USA for UNHCR, op. cit.
Refugees International, “Who is an Internally Displaced Person?” Available at www.refintl.org [Accessed: 3 July 2012]
USA for UNHCR, op. cit.
JASTRAM et al, op. cit., p. 24.
freedoms without discrimination. Also, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of
defines ways in which persons, who would otherwise be stateless, can acquire
or retain nationality through an established link with a State by birth or descent. It is worthy to
note that there are an estimated 12 million stateless people around the world33
0.3 LITERATURE REVIEW
For the purpose of better analysis, the review of literature on this topic is divided into two
sections: the protection of refugees in general and Cameroon in relation to the social
protection of refugee.
3.1 The Protection of Refugees
brings out the social and psychological factors that add to the precarious status of
refugees. According to him, refugees are often destitute, living in difficult material and
psychological conditions and subject to suspicion. Such conditions necessitate international
protection. This study endeavoured to evaluate WEIS’ remarks with emphasis on the social
status of refugees in Cameroon.
In analysing the social, economic and industrial issues affecting refugees (and migrant
workers) over the age of 45 in Australia, CAMACHO35
opines that because they come from
different racial, social, economic and linguistic backgrounds, they therefore have diverse
needs and aspirations. Focusing on social issues, CAMACHO supposes that these
“newcomers” face language and cultural barriers, while refugees with torture and trauma
backgrounds from war-ravaged countries have special needs which require the assistance of
specialised health organisations and professionals. To this is added the problem of
discrimination in accessing employment which usually exists on bases of ethnicity, cultural
customs and unfamiliar language. This study strived to find out whether or not these issues
are common with refugees in Cameroon. However, the difference between CAMACHO’s
paper and this study is that while it focuses on the socio-economic and industrial plight of
migrants and refugees above the age of 45, this study cuts across refugees of all age groups.
Cameroon is not party to both Conventions.
Refugees International, “Who is a Stateless Person?” Available at www.refintl.org [Accessed: 3 July 2012].
Paul WEIS, “The International Protection of Refugees,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 48, 1954, p. 193.
Dionisio CAMACHO, “The Social, Economic and Industrial Issues Specific to Migrant Workers over 45 Years of Age
Seeking Employment, or Establishing a Business, following Unemployment (A Quantitative Approach).” Mt Gravatt QLD
4122, April 1999.
JASTRAM et al36
, while considering the role played by the UNHCR, contend that in addition
to providing legal protection, the UNHCR also provides material relief in major emergencies,
either directly or through partner agencies. They add that the UNHCR in its first fifty years
protected and assisted more than 50 million people in its work which has earned two Nobel
Peace Prizes. They credit the staff of the United Nations’ Refugee Agency who work to
protect refugees through a wide variety of activities such as responding to emergencies;
relocating refugee camps away from border areas to improve safety; ensuring that refugee
women have a say in food distribution and social services; reuniting separated families;
providing information to refugees on conditions in their home country so they can make
informed decisions about return; and documenting refugees need for resettlement to a second
country of asylum. This study aimed at evaluating the role played by the government of
Cameroon and the country bureau of the UNHCR within the framework of social protection.
On his part, NGOLLE NGOLLE37
offers a critical analysis of the African dimensions of the
global refugee problem in terms of the numbers involved, the conditions of settlement and the
distribution of international assistance notably by the UNHCR. He concludes by noting the
growth in both refugee numbers and the corresponding UNHCR assistance38
. While his work
solely focuses on the efforts of the United Nations Refugee Agency as the specific
international institution that manages refugees, this study attempted an in-depth analysis of
other actors classified by the UNHCR as operational and implementing partners.
, in his study on the international protection of refugees in the Great Lakes region of
Africa, considers ethnic conflicts, separatist violence, complexity of identity and political
exclusion as the factors that make refugee flows more complex in the continent and
worldwide. He proposes the confinement of refugees in safe zones within the country of
origin, settlement and absorption of the wave of refugees in host States in return for
development assistance from the international community. Like MOUELLE40
, EBOT begins
with an x-ray of the global and regional legal instruments for refugee protection before
establishing a relationship between them and the actual reality in the Great Lakes region at the
JASTRAM et al, op. cit.
op. cit., p. 155.
Jean Narcisse MOUELLE KOMBI, “Le Cameroun et les Réfugiés,” Unpublished Maitrise Dissertation, Yaoundé:
University of Yaoundé, 1986.
time. The outline of the first part of his work is quite similar to that adopted in this study but
differs in the second part in that the latter largely focuses on the actions of the various
stakeholders in the social protection of refugees in Cameroon.
In what he terms the “language of protection,” GOODWIN-GILL41
traces the emergence and
development of the concept of international protection, from the time of the League of
Nations, through the period of the International Refugee Organisation, and into the practice of
States and the UNHCR. Apart from identifying an integral link between protection and human
rights, he compares the protective role of the UNHCR to that of the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC). The latter is one of the UNHCR’s implementing partners assessed
by this study.
ESPIELL et al42
appraise the principles and criteria for the protection of and assistance to
Central American refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Latin America. They
endeavour to “assess the progress achieved in respect of the principles underlying the
protection of and assistance to refugees and their voluntary repatriation with a view to
encouraging their dissemination and application43
.” Their inquiry remains useful for the
purposes of consultation and orientation as the underlying principles go beyond those evoked
in the Cartagena Declaration to focus on other international legal instruments. They have
further been complemented through the practice of the States concerned and of international
In his search for sustainable solutions to refugee problems in Africa, DINGAOMAIRE-
adopts a historical and analytical approach to examine the profound
and immediate causes that underlie population exodus in the continent. His findings blame
for the upsurge of refugees in the pre-independence era by delimiting territories
through arbitrary frontiers and bringing ethnic groups together which do not speak the same
language; practices which were a source of conflict. He believes the difficult solidarity within
Guy GOODWIN-GILL, “The Language of Protection,” International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 1989, pp. 6-
DINGAOMAIRE-LAOUHINGAMAYE, “Les Réfugiés en Afrique: La Problématique des Solutions Durables (1960 –
1990).” Unpublished Maitrise Professionnelle Dissertation, Yaoundé: International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC),
op. cit., p. 20.
the OAU at the time was one of the road blocks in the search for sustainable solutions to
refugee problems. DINGAOMAIRE-LAOUHINGAMAYE therefore proposes a
of the term “refugee” as far as the 1969 Organisation of African Unity (OAU)
Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa is concerned. Like
most researchers on the issue, his study revisits the legal basis of the international protection
system with special emphasis on Africa.
takes special interest in the problem of refugees in Africa and its consequences
for host countries, particularly the case of Angola. Like many other authors, his study
examines the legal instruments related to the protection of refugees. However, he
distinguishes himself by the classification he makes of refugees originating from independent
States and States under domination by a colonial power or racist minority on the one hand and
those from urban and rural origins on the other hand. His analysis of social related protection
focuses on emergency relief; lodging and sanitary aid; education and lastly, services for social
orientation. The analytical and descriptive approach he employs was quite useful for this
examined the social protection of refugees and asylum seekers in the Southern
Africa Development Community (SADC). According to her, there are three principal
concerns which impact on practice with regards to the access of refugees and asylum seekers
to social protection. These include the basis for an individual’s right to social protection,
institutions responsible for providing social protection and the ideal mechanisms through
which social protection is provided. As a response to the first two concerns, she highlights the
argument of some authors who claim that social protection should be based on the universal
human right to life, dignity and basic physical welfare, and therefore that responsibility for
social protection provision transcends national borders. MAKHEMA’s emphasis on the basis
for social protection, institutions responsible, mechanisms through which it is provided, as
well as challenges and policy considerations almost entirely reflects the approach of this study
to the issue which unlike hers, was within the context of Cameroon.
op. cit., p. 106.
Nelves MAKIADI N’SALAMBI, “Le Problème des Réfugiés en Afrique et ses Conséquences pour les Pays Hôtes: Cas
des Réfugiés Namibiens, Sud-Africains et Zaïrois en Angola.” Unpublished Maitrise Professionnelle Dissertation, Yaoundé:
International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC), 1989.
3.2 Cameroon and the Social Protection of Refugees
It must be acknowledged that literature on this subject is still budding. NGOLLE NGOLLE
notes that this deficiency of systematic research is due to the fact that the refugee problem
itself seems to belong to a cross-section of academic disciplines49
. However, a few scholarly
works were reviewed.
In his remarkable study on refugees in Cameroon, MOUELLE50
focused on two main aspects,
notably their status alongside government and international humanitarian assistance. His
examination of the issue goes beyond the legal framework of their protection to dwell on
factors of social protection such as shelter, health care51
, education and social orientation52
Though he can be credited for dealing with the main issues at the time, two decades are
enough to change the operational dynamics and hence render it almost impossible to reflect
the present reality. This study was therefore an effort to consider the new dynamics.
, in her study of the protection and assistance of Chadian refugees in
Cameroon begins by analysing what she refers to as “the norms of protection and assistance to
African refugees,” notably the 1951 Geneva Convention, its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU
Convention. The distinctive part of her work is her portrayal of the role played by non-
governmental organisations in the protection of refugees. She also examines the role of other
of the United Nations (such as the UNDP, FAO, ILO, WHO, UNICEF)
that work in collaboration with the UNHCR to protect refugees. From a social protection
perspective, this study accords with hers that the most basic needs of refugees just like those
of every human being are nutrition, health care, shelter and education. Her study equally
reveals that African refugees face problems of language in cases where European languages
have been adopted as official languages by African countries.
To conclude, most of the texts reviewed have an element of the legal precepts governing the
protection of refugees, notably the 1951 Convention, its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU
NGOLLE NGOLLE, op. cit., p. 8.
MOUELLE, op. cit.
ibid., pp. 61-63.
op. cit., pp. 70-71.
Duevi Jeannette Caroline KOUROUMA, “Protection et Assistance Internationale aux Réfugiés Africains: de Kousseri à
Poli / Faro, Le cas des Réfugiés Tchadiens au Cameroun.” Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, Yaoundé: International
Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC), 1983.
ibid., pp. 37-38.
Convention. While the authors endeavour to portray the dynamics in their specific areas of
interests, they acknowledge that the protection of refugees is largely governed by international
0.4 DELIMITATION OF STUDY
The delimitation of this study is threefold: historical (ratione temporis), geographical (ratione
loci) and in terms of subject matter (ratione materiae). Historically, the study runs from 2005
to 2012. 2005 can be best justified by the fact that it was the year Cameroon passed its first
refugee law. Also, it is within this timeframe that Cameroon witnessed its highest massive
influxes of refugees across its northern and eastern borders following instability in Chad and
the Central African Republic respectively.
Geographically, the study is limited to the territory of the Republic of Cameroon in line with
the mandate of the UNHCR contained in the cooperation agreement signed between the latter
and the Government of Cameroon in 1978. The choice of this spatial limitation is further
justified by the key role played by the territory in question as a host-terrain par excellence for
At the level of the subject matter, the study covers the universal, regional and national
normative and institutional frameworks for refugee protection. The study is also limited to
social protection. In this respect, given the fact that refugee protection is an umbrella term
which covers a wide range of issues, contextual emphasis of social protection is placed on
nutrition; shelter; health care; education; emergency relief and assistance; employment and
social security; protection of women, children and the family; security of person; freedom of
movement; and freedom of association and assembly55
. These constitute the dependent
variables of this research. Conversely, the independent variables constitute the institutions that
guarantee protection including the UNHCR and its implementing and operational partners.
This study recognises the difficulty in distinguishing between economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. Even the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
fail to make clear cut differences on these rights. There is therefore lack of consensus on what social protection should
comprise of (Rachel SABATES-WHEELER and Myrtha WAITE, op. cit., p. 6).
Against this backdrop, in delimiting social rights, this study builds on the European Community Charter of the Fundamental
Social Rights of Workers. This Charter clearly considers freedom of movement, employment, freedom of association,
vocational training (education), health care, protection of children, etc., as fundamental social rights. The Charter was
declared on 8 and 9 December 1989 in Strasbourg, France.
0.5 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
In 2011, the UNHCR noted that more than three quarters of a million people became refugees
following the upheavals in Africa and the Middle East. As instability continued in the Eastern
and Western African sub-regions, the number was expected to increase. Meantime, Cameroon
is situated in the midst of countries in the Central African sub-region which for decades have
been faced with internal insecurity. Such has been the case with the Central African Republic
stroke by rebellion and intermittent coups d’états in recent years, as well as Chad with
environmental crisis and border disputes with Libya. The role of neighbouring countries like
Nigeria affected by sporadic violence and terrorism in conjunction with religious, economic
and political differences can also be mentioned. These phenomena have prompted the influx
of refugees into Cameroon which unlike her neighbours, has enjoyed relative internal peace
and stability since independence. In fact in 2011, more than one hundred thousand were
believed to be seeking international protection in Cameroon56
. It goes without reiterating that
the most basic needs of refugees are more of social than political and economic.
The central question which is therefore posed is as follows: given the fact that Cameroon is
considered a ‘host country par excellence’57
for refugees, what is the extent to which social
protection conforms to international standards? To better respond to this question, this study
also seeks to answer the following secondary questions:
1. What constitutes the legal basis for the social protection of refugees in Cameroon?
2. What are the actors involved in the process, how complementary are their actions, and
which of them bear the greatest burden?
3. What measures have been put in place to ensure the social protection of refugees?
4. What challenges or constraints are encountered?
5. What is the way forward in terms of policy considerations for a lasting solution?
This study attempted to decipher whether a direct relationship exists between the social
protection of refugees in Cameroon and the national and international legal instruments which
provide the basic standards on which principled action is based. Within this framework, the
NDOUYOU-MOULIOM, op. cit.
AÏDA HAILE Mariam cited in NDOUYOU-MOULIOM, ibid.
main hypothesis revolved around the assertion that “the social protection of refugees in
Cameroon is in conformity with international standards for protection.” It is also
1. There are universal, regional and national norms which provide the framework for the
protection of the social rights of refugees in Cameroon.
2. There are various stakeholders involved in the social protection of refugees at the
universal, regional and national levels.
3. There have been a good number of measures put in place to ameliorate the social
plight of refugees in Cameroon.
4. There are multiple challenges encountered at various levels of social protection.
5. There is the possibility for a way forward.
Generally, the outcome of the study was to suggest three possible interpretations. If a direct
relationship was to be established between the two major variables in question, that is social
protection and international standards, it could be an indication that by the country’s adoption
of a national law on refugee status and its accession, succession and ratification of the major
international instruments regulating the protection of refugees, Cameroon is determined to be
a host country par excellence. It could equally suggest that the work of the UNHCR in
Cameroon alongside its implementation and operational partners has been fruitful. However,
the reverse could be true if the assertion is proven wrong and a strong indication that much
remains to be desired in the social protection of refugees in Cameroon. A last possible
interpretation could be a constellation of the first two. In other words, it could be interpreted
to mean that despite the remarkable progress made in the social protection of refugees in
Cameroon, much remains to be desired.
0.7 OBJECTIVES AND SIGNIFICANCE
The main aim of this study was to enable an understanding of the concept of social protection
of refugees in the context of Cameroon, with a view of offering guidance on the way forward.
The following objectives were therefore identified to be of paramount importance in helping
to achieve the aforementioned aim:
- Situate the legal framework for the social protection of refugees in Cameroon.
- Identify stakeholders involved, review their level of collaboration and ascertain which of
them bears the greatest burden.
- Evaluate measures towards the social protection of refugees in Cameroon.
- Analyse the challenges or constraints faced.
- Formulate recommendations or policy considerations towards a durable solution in line with
the challenges or constraints encountered.
This study is significant in analysing the conceptual underpinnings of the social protection of
refugees in the context of Cameroon, the key issues that the concept throws up for policy
making, the range of measures subsumed to implement the concept and the implications all
these have for State and international involvement in the provision of social protection. It is
also a vital opportunity to use a ‘refugee’ lens to build on existing frameworks for
conceptualising social protection. The study is significant in disclosing the flaws of the
current social protection regime; a modest contribution towards improving on the formulation
and implementation of policies by stakeholders in the domain.
0.8 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The theory of Implicit Burden-Sharing58
is applicable to the social protection of refugees in
Cameroon. THIELEMANN and DEWAN believe burden-sharing debates are becoming
increasingly important in areas such as refugee protection59
. Burden-sharing refers to
responsibility-sharing or the ‘equal balance of efforts’ between States in the area of refugee
protection while refugee protection is considered an international collective or public good60
It follows therefore that for collectively or publicly provided goods, countries receive benefits
through the overall supply of the good which is a combination of their own contribution and
that of others. A number of scholars, most prominently SUHRKE61
, have suggested that
refugee protection has important ‘public good’ characteristics. SUHRKE argues that the
reception of displaced persons can be regarded an international public good from which all
States benefit. In this view, increased security can be regarded as the principal benefit, as an
According to Sadako OGATA, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, one of the outstanding
achievements in the humanitarian field has been the establishment of the principle that the refugee problem is a matter of
concern to the international community and must be addressed in the context of international cooperation and burden-sharing.
Torun DEWAN and Eiko R. THIELEMANN, “The myth of free-riding: Refugee protection and implicit burden-sharing,”
West European politics, Vol. 29 (2), 2006, pp. 351-369.
The goods and services that governments provide in the common interest of all individuals are often called collective or
public goods. Such goods are assumed to have one or both of the following characteristics: (1) non-excludability: if the
collective good is provided for, everyone automatically benefits, or, in others words, non-contributors cannot be kept from
benefiting from that good, and (2) non-rivalry: if the good is available to any one person/State, it is available to others at little
or no additional cost.
Cited in THIELEMANN and DEWAN, op. cit.
accommodation of displaced persons (refugees) can be expected to reduce the risk of them
fuelling and spreading the conflicts they are fleeing from.
proposed an alternative framework to explain international burden-sharing by
focusing on trade in public goods, building on the Ricardian theory of comparative advantage.
On basis of these ideas, THIELEMANN and DEWAN suggest that the provision of a
collective good can be broken down into tradable components. In the context of refugee
protection, one feasible component is the provision of protection opportunities for displaced
persons. They refer to this as a reactive contribution since it deals with the problem once
people have already been displaced. Other forms of contribution such as engagement in
unilateral and multilateral peace-keeping/making operations are termed proactive
contributions since they aim to prevent refugee flows before they occur.
Peacekeeping/enforcement can be viewed as an alternative way to contribute to security by
preventing or limiting uncontrolled population flows. Like the acceptance of displaced
persons, peacekeeping also possesses key elements of an international public good. If
intrastate and interstate conflicts have negative consequences on other countries in terms of
unchecked migration flows, then peacekeeping efforts to end such wars represent a trans-
national public good. The peace and security provided by keeping migration flows in check
through peacekeeping/making operations thus give rise to non-excludable and non-rival
At this juncture, it is important to note that for the purpose and context of this study, only the
reactive contribution was evaluated since it deals with the social protection of refugees who
are already in the territory of Cameroon and consequently, the unit of comparative analysis in
terms of burden-sharing are not States but stakeholders in the area of refugee protection in
Cameroon. It is equally worthy to note that the burden-sharing model is correlated to the
liberal paradigm of international relations. Indeed, the aforementioned postulates of SUHRKE
are in line with the liberal principle of “collective security” while those of BOYER on trade in
public goods are related to “commercial pacifism;” a precept based on the widespread ideas of
liberal economists like Adam SMITH, Richard COBDEN and Joseph SCHUMPETER that
trade is not only a factor of prosperity and wellbeing but also a factor of peace63
. A major
motivation to conduct this study was the need to find out the stakeholder disproportionately
shouldering the greatest burden in the social protection of refugees in Cameroon; whether it is
the government of Cameroon, the UNHCR, or its implementing and operational partners.
Abraham MASLOW’s concept of hierarchy of needs can equally be used to support the
choice of social protection rather than the other dimensions of protection. In his 1943 paper
on the “Theory of Human Motivation,” the renowned psychologist suggests that people are
motivated to fulfil basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs64
hierarchy is most often displayed as a pyramid, with the most basic needs at the lowest levels,
while the more complex needs are located at the top. Physiological needs at the bottom of the
pyramid are basic requirements including the need for food and water (nutrition) while safety
and security needs include health care and shelter65
. His theory also mentions involvement in
social, community and religious groups as vital needs. Though little mention is made of
education, social orientation, emergency relief, etc., MASLOW’s concept of hierarchy of
is related to the context of this study to a great extent.
8.2 Research Methodology
The method of study employed was both analytical and descriptive. The hypothesis of the
study was tested by content-analysing qualitative empirical data obtained from different
sources. The study made use of both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources
essentially included observation and interviews with refugees and stakeholders in the domain
of their protection in Cameroon. These stakeholders range from the UNHCR, its operational
and implementing partners as well as human rights promotion and protection organs such as
the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms (NCHRF) and the United Nations
Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa. Content analyses of data from
secondary sources entailed academic publications and organisational reports. From a legal
perspective, the study analysed universal, regional and national instruments on the protection
of refugees. Internet sources relating to the issue were equally useful. The descriptive method
Pierre MOUKOKO MBONJO, “Theories of International Relations,” First Semester Lecture Notes, 2010 / 2011 Academic
Kendra CHERRY, “Hierarchy of Needs”. Available at http://psychology.about.com [Accessed 1 July 2012].
Criticisms for MASLOW’s theory indicate that there is little evidence for his ranking of needs and even less evidence that
these needs are in a hierarchical order. However, regardless of these criticisms, his theory remains part of an important shift
in human development.
permitted an empirical perspective of the actual situation on the ground as far as the social
protection of refugees in Cameroon is concerned. These fall within the framework of the
hypothetico-descriptive approach, a model of social science involving the formulation of
hypotheses and theories from which particular occurrences can be deduced and thus predicted
0.9 STRUCTURAL ORGANISATION
This work is presented in four chapters grouped into two major parts. The first part with two
chapters analyses the normative and institutional frameworks for the social protection of
refugees in Cameroon. The first chapter therefore examines the normative framework from a
universal, regional and national perspective67
. Similarly, the second chapter presents the
institutional framework from a universal, regional and national perspective. The second part
comprising of the third and fourth chapters focuses on the measures taken by various
stakeholders in the social protection of refugees in Cameroon, challenges encountered as well
as policy considerations. The third chapter thus analyses the measures within the framework
of the UNHCR and its partners while the fourth and last chapter unveils the challenges or
constraints that stifle the process, and proposes the way forward in terms of policy
The logic behind this order lies in the fact that most of the universal instruments for the protection of refugees were
adopted and even entered into force before the regional texts and the eventual passing of national laws in this respect.
THE NORMATIVE AND INSTITUTIONAL
FRAMEWORKS FOR THE SOCIAL
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON
INTRODUCTION TO PART ONE
The social protection of refugees in Cameroon is governed by a normative and an institutional
framework. The normative framework is significant as it provides principles and criteria for
the social protection of refugees in Cameroon. Without legal standards, there will be no basis
for social protection. On its part, institutional framework implies organs or bodies which
oversee or control the implementation of norms regarding social protection. Without the
existence of such institutions, the normative framework will be worthless. This part of the
work dwells on the normative and institutional frameworks. Whereas chapter one is dedicated
to the normative framework, chapter two examines the institutional framework.
CHAPTER ONE: THE NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR THE SOCIAL
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES IN CAMEROON
There are global, regional as well as national legal instruments representing the normative
framework for the protection of refugees in general and from social outlook in particular. For
the purposes of this study, only those directly relating to Cameroon are analysed68
it is worth noting that there is no single instrument which provides all the elements of social
protection. While they are similar in many respects, they differ in scope in some cases, and
are seen in this context as complementary. This chapter strives to explore the normative
framework for the protection of refugee rights in Cameroon. While section one examines the
main universal instruments guaranteeing the social protection of refugees, section two focuses
on other global instruments which have a similar vocation. The regional and national
normative frameworks are the focus of sections three and four respectively.
I: Universal Instruments
Cameroon is signatory to all major international instruments on refugees without reservation,
notably the Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol. On a global scale, apart from
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this Convention and Protocol have been
supplemented by subsidiary protection regimes.
I.1: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted and proclaimed by UN General
Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Through this declaration, the United
Nations proclaimed its commitment to uphold, promote and protect the human rights of every
, including refugees. This commitment builds on the United Nations Charter,
which reaffirms the faith of the peoples of the world in fundamental human rights and in the
dignity and worth of the human person70
. Generally, Article 14 of the declaration defines the
framework for refugee protection by recognising the fact that “everyone has the right to seek
This delimitation is vital since this study deals with the social protection of refugees in the context of Cameroon. The 1951
Convention is the only global legal instrument dealing with the status and rights of refugees. It therefore applies in Cameroon
following its ratification. However, there are several other conventions and declarations of particular relevance in specific
regions. An example is the Cartagena Declaration which applies only in Latin America. Such instruments cannot be analysed
in this study since they do not apply in Cameroon.
United Nations, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60.” Available at
www.un.org/events/humanrights/2007/hrphotos/declaration%_eng.pdf [Accessed 9 August 2012].
Article 1 (3) of the United Nations Charter.
and to enjoy in other countries, asylum from persecution.” Attention here is nevertheless on
articles relating to the social protection of these vulnerable persons.
Article 3 affirms the right to life, liberty and security of person for everyone. This is a
combination of Articles 6 and 9 respectively of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights. The United Nations Human Rights Committee refers to it as “the supreme
right” and insists that “it is the basic of all human rights71
” and “should not be interpreted
Article 13 (1) stipulates the right of everyone to freedom of movement and residence within
the borders of each State. The right of everyone to leave any “country, including his own, and
to return to his country” recorded in this is but a corollary of freedom of movement declared
in paragraph one of the same article73
. Contrary to this, GIBNEY and HANSEN opine that
refugees are usually prohibited from leaving the refugee camp to which they have been
assigned, although there is no provision in international refugee law instruments that can
justify the systematic and unfettered restriction to the refugees’ freedom of movement. In
some countries, the police enforce restrictions to freedom of movement by resorting to
arbitrary arrest and detention74
. Nonetheless, some restrictions on the freedom of movement
of irregularly entering asylum-seekers are allowed pending regularisation of States75
Article 20 (1) lays down the right of everyone to freedom of peaceful assembly and
association. In the same vein, Article 20 (2) prohibits the act of compelling anyone to belong
to an association. This right is considered an individual and a collective right76
. This means
that it creates rights for individuals to be in association and to act in association, but also that
it creates rights for the association which may have a collective interest beyond that of an
individual member. Complementing this is the right not to be a member of an association77
UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 14: Right to Life (1984), UN Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.7, May 12,
2004, at 139, para. 1.
UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 6: Right to Life (1982), UN Doc. HRI/GEN/1/Rev.7, May 12, 2004,
at 128, para. 1.
Lars-Gunner ERIKSON, Goran MELANDER, and Peter NOBEL, An Analysing Account of the Conference on the African
Refugee Problem: Arusha, May 7, 1979. Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1981, p. 122.
Matthew J. GIBNEY and Randall A. HANSEN, Immigration and Asylum: From 1900 to the Present. Santa Barbara,
California: ABC CLIO, 2005, p. 499.
James C. HATHAWAY, The Rights of Refugees under International Law. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005,
K. D EWING, “Freedom of Association. Individual Rights and the Law in Britain,” Ind. Law J, Vol. 34, 1992, p. 240.
Paul WEIS, “The International Protection of Refugees,” American Journal of International Law, Vol. 48, 1954, p. 193.
Article 22 guarantees that everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security
and is entitled to realisation, through national effort and international cooperation and in
accordance with the organisation and resources of each State, of the economic, social and
cultural rights indispensible for his dignity and the free development of his personality. Social
security can therefore be understood in a broad sense as referring to both ‘earned benefits and
Pertaining to Article 23 (1), everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to
just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. With regard
to Article 23 (2), everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal
work. A propos Article 23 (3), everyone who works has the right to just and favourable
remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and
supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. With reference to Article 23
(4), everyone has the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests. The
right to work recognises a person’s productive-creative needs79
. The expression “right to
work” is sometimes misunderstood as guaranteeing a job for everyone. The International
Labour Conference and the United Nations have discussed this many times, and in fact what it
means in international law is the right to have the opportunity to work80
. In other words,
States have an obligation to provide for the conditions that allow everyone (including
refugees) to support themselves and their families81
Article 25 is multidimensional, focusing on the rights to nutrition, shelter and health care. As
regards Article 25 (1), everyone has the right to the standard of living adequate for the health
and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment,
sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond
his control. The rights to food, clothing, housing and medical care as stated in this article are
social acknowledgements of biological-material needs82
. Food is considered the basic need for
SHEININ in Rights (1995), p. 159, cited in CHOLEWINSKI, IGLJ 14 (2000) pp. 709, 723, cited in, Andreas
ZIMMERMANN, Jonas DORSCHER, and Felix MACHTS, The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its
1967 Protocol: A Commentary. Oxford Commentaries on International Law, 2011, p. 1065.
Joseph WRONKA, Human Rights and Social Policy in the 21st Century. Revised Edition, University Press of America,
1998, p. 26.
Lee SWEPSTON, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ILO Standards: A Comparative Analysis on the
Occasion of the 50th
Anniversary of the Declaration’s Adoption. Geneva: International Labour Office, 1998, p. 23.
ibid., p. 23.
Joseph WRONKA, Human Rights and Social Policy in the 21st Century.
all human beings83
. Everyone requires access to food which is sufficient, balanced and safe to
satisfy nutritional requirements, culturally acceptable and accessible in a manner that does not
destroy one’s dignity as human beings84
According to Article 25 (2), motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and
assistance. It goes further to underscore that all children, whether born in or out of wedlock,
shall enjoy the same social protection. This is one of the categories of rights contained in the
UDHR and carried forward into other international instruments85
. Like others in this category,
it does not impose absolute and immediately binding standards of attainment, but rather
requires States to take steps to the maximum of their available resources, progressively, to
realise rights in a non-discriminatory way86
. The significance of this article can be explained
by the fact that there have been a couple of international conventions to protect the rights of
these two categories. Cases in point include the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Violence against Women, the 1989 Convention on Rights of the Child and the 1990
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The African Charter on the Rights
and Welfare of the Child is the first regional and comprehensive binding instrument
proclaiming the human rights of children. The adoption of the Charter closely followed that of
the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Some of the specific
features of the Charter include a stronger definition of the child than in the UN Convention
including the protection of internally displaced and refugee children, protection of imprisoned
expectant mothers and mothers of infants and young children, and protection of girls who
become pregnant before the end of their education87
Article 26 (1) defines the right to education for everyone. It stresses that education shall be
free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be
compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and
higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. Paragraph two of
Article 26 elucidates that education shall be oriented to the full development of the human
personality and the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It
shall promote understandings, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious
EIDE, 1987, pg. 13. Cited in Joseph WRONKA, op. cit., p. 26.
Erika FELLER, Volker TURK and Francis NICHOLSON, Refugee Protection in International Law: UNHCR’s Global
Consultations on International Protection. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 382.
Hakina ABBAS, Africa’s Long Road to Rights: Reflections on the 20th
Anniversary of the African Commission on Human
and Peoples’ Rights. Nairobi: Fahamu-Networks for Social Justice, 2007, p. 51.
groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations in the maintenance of peace.
Meanwhile, the third and last paragraph of the article guarantees the prior right of parents to
choose the kind of education that shall be given their children. The article recognises the right
. The drafting history of the first two paragraphs is in connection with
the rights to the full development of one’s personality, which underlies the entire second half
of the Declaration, but is specifically mentioned in Articles 22, 26 and 2989
. Paragraph 2
makes human rights education the new civics for the new world order the drafters envisioned
while the last paragraph attaches special importance to parents who are members of a
The use of the word “everyone” in most, if not in all articles analysed above demonstrates the
universal coverage of the UDHR to include all human beings including refugees. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the first comprehensive human rights instrument to
be proclaimed by a universal international organisation. Because of its moral status and the
legal and political importance, it has acquired over the years, the Declaration ranks of the
Magna Carta, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the American Declarations of
Independence, as a milestone in mankind’s struggle for freedom and human dignity91
. It is
also part of international customary law; it is the base from which all other instruments of
human rights derive. There is hardly an instrument of human rights that does not, in its
preamble, refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I.2: Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
Grounded in Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of human rights which recognises
the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries, the United Nations
Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, adopted in 1951, is the centrepiece of
international refugee protection92
. The Convention entered into force on 22 April 1954, and it
has been subject to only one amendment in the form of a 1967 Protocol of New York, which
Joseph WRONKA, op. cit., p. 26.
Johannes MORSINK, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Origins, Drafting and Intent. Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 1999, p. 335.
Thomas BUERGENTHAL, International Human Rights in a Nutshell. West Publishing Co., 1988, p. 25.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution 429 (V) of 14 December 1950, available at
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3b00F08a27.html, cited in Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees,
available at www.unhcr.org/3b666C2aa10.htmb56 [Accessed 9 August 2012].
removed the geographic and temporal limits of the 1951 Convention93
. The 1951 Convention,
a post-Second World War instrument, was originally limited in scope to persons fleeing
events occurring before 1 January 1951 and within Europe. The 1967 Protocol removed these
limitations and thus gave the Convention universal coverage. In Cameroon, the Convention
and Protocol entered into force on 23 October 1961 and 19 September 1967 respectively.
Emphasis here is laid on the provisions of the Convention related to social protection.
Article 15 provides the right to association. It states that “as regards non-political and non-
profit-making associations and trade unions, the Contracting States shall accord to refugees
lawfully staying in their territory the most favourable treatment accorded to nationals of a
foreign country in the same circumstances.” In the point of view of the Secretariat draft of the
, the ordinary law of democratic countries includes freedom of
association which, in principle, is enjoyed by foreigners as well as by nationals, and Article
20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lays that down. In these circumstances,
there can be no objection to stateless persons joining non-profit-making associations. It was
therefore advisable to include a special provision relating to non-profit-making associations in
the Convention. Profit-making associations are covered by the provisions dealing with the
exercise of the professions95
Article 17 requires States to accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory the most
favourable treatment accorded to nationals of a foreign country in the same circumstances, as
regards wage-earning employment. The article is a product of negotiations conducted during
the serious economic conditions following the Second World War96
. It is therefore arguable
that any restrictive measures on the enjoyment of this right by refugees today and drawn from
the 1951 Convention could be justified, on an exceptional basis only, according to severe
financial or economic conditions equivalent to the post-Second World War environment as an
implied term of Article 17 of the 1951 Convention97
. However, this would only be permitted
The Convention enabled States to make a declaration when becoming party, according to which the words “events
occurring before 1 January 1951” are understood to mean “events occurring in Europe” prior to that date. This geographical
limitation has been maintained by a very limited number of States, and with the adoption of the 1967 Protocol, has lost much
of its significance. The Protocol of 1967 is attached to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2198 (XXI) of 16
December 1967, available at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3b00flcc50.html.
Paul WEIS, The Refugee Convention, 1951: The Travaux Préparatoires Analysed, Cambridge: Grotius Publications, 1995,
p. 90 of online version, available at www.unhcr.org/4ca34be29.pdf.
ZIMMERMANN et al, p. 967.
if it does not defeat the object and purpose of the 1951 Convention. The preamble to the
Convention recalls that the UN had ‘manifested its profound concern for refugees and
endeavoured to assure refugees the widest possible exercise of their fundamental rights and
; or otherwise violate human rights obligations such as the obligation to treat
individuals with dignity.
Article 20 guarantees the right to rationing which can be linked to nutrition. With regards to
this, “where a rationing system exists, which applies to the population at large and regulates
the general distribution of products in short supply, refugees shall be accorded the same
treatment as nationals.” This provision is considered an innovation and applies to all refugees
in the territory, whether lawfully or unlawfully there99
. It follows from the debate during the
preparatory work that it refers to consumer goods in short supply, not to commodities for
commercial or industrial use. The provision does not apply to products available in sufficient
quantities but which are allocated to certain groups, for example, indigent or old persons, or at
more favourable prices or conditions.
Housing is the main concern of Article 21. It states that “as regards housing, the Contracting
States, in so far as the matter is regulated by laws or regulations or is subject to the control of
public authorities, shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory treatment as
favourable as possible, and in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens
generally in the same circumstances.” In his commentary on the article, WEIS borrows from
Article 6 of the Migration for Employment Convention of 1949 which provides that each
Contracting party ‘undertakes to apply, without discrimination in respect of nationality, race,
religion or sex, to migrants lawfully within its territory, treatment no less favourable than that
which it applies to its own nationals in respect of...accommodation...’ There may thus be a
conflict when a refugee is also a migrant worker and the State concerned is a party to both
Conventions. In such a case, the refugee would be accorded the better treatment.
Commentators have noted that the term ‘housing’ is wider than ‘housing accommodation’ and
that the concept of housing ‘implies not only the obtaining of dwelling place, but also
participation in schemes for financing of the construction of dwelling places100
EDWARDS, International Journal of Refugee Law 17 (2005) pp. 293, 297 cited in ZIMMERMANN et al, op. cit., p. 967.
Paul WEIS, The Travaux Préparatoires Analysed, p. 115.
ZIMMERMANN et al, op. cit., p. 1014.
Article 22 focuses on public education. Article 22 (1) provides that “the Contracting States
shall accord to refugees the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to
elementary education.” The Secretariat draft of the article stated that elementary education is
to be provided for refugees in the same manner as for nationals, because elementary education
satisfies an urgent need, reason why most States have made it compulsory, and because
schools are the most rapid and effective instrument of assimilation101
. Article 22 (2) goes
further to precise that “the Contracting States shall accord to refugees treatment as favourable
as possible, and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the
same circumstances, with respect to education other than elementary education, and in
particular, as regards access to studies, the recognition of foreign school certificates, diplomas
and degrees, the remission of fees and charges and the award of scholarships.” In this case,
the secretariat draft holds that refugees shall enjoy the most favourable treatment accorded to
nationals of a foreign country, in particular as regards the remission of fees and the award of
scholarships. It follows that since refugees are generally in precarious economic positions, it
would be desirable to do more than merely accord them the ordinary treatment enjoyed by
foreigners; otherwise in practice although secondary and higher education is open to them,
they will be unable for want of money, to take advantage of it. This explains why it is
proposed to grant refugees the most favourable treatment granted to nationals of a foreign
Article 23 regulates the treatment of refugees with regards to public relief and assistance. It
provides that “the Contracting States shall accord to refugees lawfully staying in their territory
the same treatment with respect to public relief and assistance as is accorded to their
nationals.” WEIS’ argument here is that refugees are not required to meet any conditions of
local affiliation or residence which may be required of nationals103
. In the case of nationals,
the community of origin is frequently responsible for relief and assistance. Although not
defined in the 1951 Convention, the term ‘public relief and assistance’ may be understood to
cover a number of areas of public welfare, including food and other (non-social security
related) social assistance, emergency relief and medical and hospital care104
. As such, while
Paul WEIS, op. cit., p. 117.
ibid., pp. 117-118.
ibid., p. 125.
Statement of MALFATTI (Italy), Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees and Stateless Person, UN Doc.E/AC.32/SR.38, p. 4.
the meaning of ‘public relief and assistance’ will depend to some extent on the meaning given
to it in national law, it is a concept that should be interpreted widely105
While Article 24 of the Convention essentially deals with labour and social security, the right
to health is also incumbent. Article 24 (1) requires Contracting States to accord to refugees
lawfully staying in their territory the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to
remuneration and social security subject to limitations such as national laws or regulations of
the country of residence. It therefore applies to labour law and social security in so far as such
matters are governed by laws or regulations or are subject to the control of administrative
authorities. It applies to the benefits for agreements between employees and employers only
to this extent106
Article 24 (2) further guarantees that the right of compensation for the death of a refugee
resulting from employment injury or from occupational disease shall not be affected by the
fact that the residence of the beneficiary is outside the territory of the Contracting State. This
gives the dependents of victims of fatal industrial accidents resident abroad a right to
compensation even if nationals have no such right. As to the actual transfer of the
compensation, currency regulations are preserved but they should, as far as possible, be
interpreted in such a way as to make transfer possible107
Still in the light of social security, Article 24 (3) provides that the Contracting States shall
extend to refugees the benefits of agreements concluded between them, or which may be
concluded between them in the future, concerning the maintenance of acquired rights and
rights in the process of acquisition with regard to social security, subject only to conditions
which apply to nationals of States signatory to the agreements in question. This takes care of
the reservation in paragraph 1 (b) (i) quoted above108
Lastly, Article 24 (4) requires Contracting States to give sympathetic consideration to
extending to refugees so far as possible the benefits of similar agreements which may at any
time be in force between such Contracting States and non-Contracting States. This applies to
similar agreements with non-Contracting States, in particular with the countries of origin of
ZIMMERMANN et al, op. cit., p. 1054.
Paul WEIS, op. cit., p. 137.
the refugees and is in the nature of a recommendation109
. Paul WEIS considers the principle
of equality of treatment between nationals and aliens as regards labour law to be universally
accepted. The same principle as regards social security is becoming more and more widely
accepted. However, the question arises whether the term ‘lawfully staying’ extends also to
refugees who were lawfully staying in the territory of a Contracting State and subsequently
. The answer probably is that such refugees are entitled to social security benefits in as
much as nationals are entitled to such benefits.
Article 26 addresses the right to freedom of movement by obliging each Contracting State to
accord to refugees lawfully in its territory the right to choose their place of residence to move
freely within its territory, subject to any regulations applicable to aliens generally in the same
circumstances. WEIS supposes that Article 26 applies to refugees lawfully in the territory. It
does not affect the conditions imposed on refugees for their admission. Special measures
taken in time of war or other grave and exceptional circumstances are covered by Article 9111
Subject to this, Contracting States may not discriminate between refugees in applying Article
26. Inasmuch as a refugee is restricted in his freedom to seek employment, this may also
entail a restriction to choose his place of residence112
Article 33 tackles the predicament of prohibition from expulsion or return also known as
refoulement. Article 33 (1) clearly rules out Contracting States from expelling or returning
(refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where His life or
freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a
particular social group or political opinion. On this, WEIS opines that the words ‘to the
frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened’ have the same meaning
as in Article 31 (1)113
, that is, the same meaning as ‘well-founded fear of persecution’ in
Article 1 A (2) of the Convention. It applies to the refugee’s country of origin and any other
Article 9 of the 1951 Convention states “Nothing in this Convention shall prevent a Contracting State, in time of war or
other grave and exceptional circumstances, from taking provisionally measures which it considers to be essential to the
national security in the case of a particular person, pending a determination by the Contracting State that that person is in fact
a refugee and that the continuance of such measures is necessary in his case in the interests of national security.”
Paul WEIS, op. cit., p. 149.
The article states that the Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on
refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of Article 1, enter or
are present in their territory without authorisation, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show
good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
country where he also has a well-founded fear of persecution or risks being sent to this
country of origin114
. The question arises whether the provision applies to non-admittance at
the frontier and to extradition. The words ‘in any manner whatsoever’ would seem to indicate
that this is the case. It was ruled by the President of the Conference115
that the article does not
apply to mass migrations. In the course of drafting, other words such as ‘not to turn back’
were used. The argument that refoulement entails a right to asylum is not correct116
. The State
admitting the refugee is not obliged to grant him asylum, and may even expel him to another
country willing to admit him (Article 31). As to extradition, it would also seem to be covered
by the words ‘in any manner whatsoever’. Most treaties of that kind specified that not only
should the fact be established prima facie to the satisfaction of the country receiving the
request for extradition, but also that the crime for which the criminal was to be returned was
not of a political nature117
Article 33 (2) nevertheless limits the extent to which paragraph one of the article applies by
stating that the benefit of the present provision may not, however, be claimed by a refugee
whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in
which he is, or who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particular serious crime,
constitutes a danger to the community or that country. WEIS118
argues that this second
paragraph constitutes an exception to the general principle embodied in paragraph one and
has, like all exceptions, to be interpreted restrictively. He further avers that not every reason
of national security may be invoked; the refugee must constitute a danger to the national
security of the country. As to criminal activities, the word ‘crimes’ is not to be understood in
the technical sense of any criminal code but simply signifies a serious criminal offence. Two
conditions must be fulfilled: the refugee must have been convicted by final judgment for a
particularly serious crime, and he must constitute a danger to the community of the country.
What crimes are meant is difficult to define since the principle that the criminal, not the
crime, is to be punished applies. Certainly, capital crimes such as murder, rape, armed robbery
and arson are included. However, even a particularly serious crime, if committed in a moment
of passion, may not necessarily constitute the refugee as a danger to the community. On the
Paul WEIS, op. cit., p. 245.
United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons.
Paul WEIS, op. cit., p. 245.
ibid., p. 245.
ibid., pp. 245-246.
other hand, a refugee who has committed a particularly serious crime and many minor
offences may well, as a habitual criminal, constitute a danger to the community119
On his part, HATHAWAY120
notes that in some cases, depriving refugees the necessities of
life may give rise to a breach of the duty of non- refoulement. Repatriation under coercion,
including situations in which refugees are left with no real option but to live is breach to
Article 33 of the refugee convention.
At this point, it might be worthwhile considering the argument of HATHAWAY that the
drafters of the refugee Convention, paid surprisingly little attention to the importance of
meeting the basic needs of refugees who arrive to seek protection. While they gave detailed
attention to a variety of relatively sophisticated socioeconomic rights, the Convention does
not directly address the rights to food, water, or healthcare and only regulates access to public
housing for refugees once they are lawfully staying in a given country121
II: Other Universal Instruments Reinforcing the Social Protection of Refugees
The 1951 refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol as well as the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights are not the only global legal precepts for the social protection of refugees.
With the progressive development of international human rights law, there exist other
international legal instruments reinforcing the social protection of refugees. In this
perspective, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights can be noted.
II.1: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted and opened
for signature, ratification and accession by the General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) of
16 December 1966. The Covenant was ratified by Cameroon on June 27, 1984 and entered
into force on September 27, 1984122
. By extrapolation, Article 2 (2) of the Covenant includes
the respect of the rights of persons with refugee status recognised in the Covenant, by stating
that “the States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights
ibid., p. 246.
James C. HATHAWAY, op. cit., p. 464.
ibid., p. 466.
See “United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC).” Available at http://treaties.un.org [Accessed 6 March 2013].
enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination as to … national
or social origin…”
Article 6 has a direct relationship with Article 7 as they both deal with the right to work. This
right includes fair wages and equal remuneration for work of equal value and safe and healthy
working conditions. States are said to violate Articles 6 and 7 if they commit or permit
workplace discrimination or violence against employees123
. They also violate these provisions
if they do not pass or enforce statutes, regulations or laws to prohibit discriminatory and
harmful employment practices for employees who work for any kind of employer, public or
private. National laws or practices restricting women’s ability to work outside their homes
constitute a violation of Articles 6 and 7. A government also violates its own obligation to
protect human rights when it fails to prevent violations committed by others. For instance, a
government’s failure to ensure that private employers comply with employment standards
regarding safety work may violate the “right to work” or the “right to just and favourable
conditions of work124
Article 9 recognises the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance. An
example of violation of this right includes situations where legislation excludes foreign and
migrant workers who do not have full-time jobs from social benefits and protection such as
health care services, workers compensation, unemployment insurance benefits, financial
support for other individuals and families in need125
. However, citing SCHEININ,
CHOLEWINSKI succinctly summarised some important limitations of the article in shaping
arguments for the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers to social security
that need to be kept in mind. According to him, the guarantee of Article 9 of the ICESCR is
very general in nature referring merely to ‘social security, including social insurance,’ in
deference to the far more detailed provisions in International Labour Organisation
. This article ‘primarily focuses on social security in the narrow sense: income-
based and situation-based cash benefits for workers and their families127
Article 10 warrants State parties to the Covenant to recognise that the widest possible
protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and
Allan McCHESNEY, Promoting and Defending Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, A Handbook. Washington DC:
American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2000, pp. 44-45.
ibid., p. 36.
ibid., p. 47.
ZIMMERMANN et al, op. cit., p. 1065.
SHEININ, pp. 159, 162 cited in ZIMMERMANN et al, ibid.