UN Migration Agency Facilitates Return of Internally Displaced Persons in Central African Republic

Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration

Bangui – On Wednesday (18/04) IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in coordination with the Government of the Central African Republic (CAR), facilitated the return of five displaced families (13 individuals) to their areas of origin. The families had been living in an internal displacement site since May 2017 when violence broke out in Bangassou.

This return support took place as part of ongoing emergency assistance under funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Bangassou is a town in south eastern CAR on the border of the Oubangui River, which separates the country from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The area had been relatively peaceful prior to May 2017 when violent clashes broke out between the largely Christian anti-Balaka armed group and the Muslim community of Bangassou. The result of this conflict was that all Muslims living in the Tokoyo neighborhood of Bangassou were forced to seek refuge on the land surrounding the town’s Cathedral, where they found relative security.

Given their now protracted displacement, this land has become an internal displacement site known colloquially as ‘petit seminaire’ [small seminary].

IOM has been working with partners in Bangassou for years and is currently the only UN agency to have a permanent presence through its office, which opened last October in this South Eastern town engulfed by violent conflict for nearly a year. In an effort to provide solutions to the increasingly difficult displacement situation in Bangassou, IOM conducted a return intention survey in line with its Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) operations in and around Bangassou in August 2017.

The results of this survey showed that several families living on the site were not from Bangassou or its surroundings but rather from other, distant areas in CAR, and had only been passing through at the time of the clashes and separated from their families and homes since. 

IOM facilitated the return of the 13 individuals from Bangassou to their area of origin in Bangui. The UN Peacekeeping Mission (MINUSCA) and IOM escorted them from the displacement site to the airstrip where a plane chartered by IOM transported them to Bangui.

On arrival at Bangui airport, the individuals were greeted by representatives from IOM, the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Reconciliation and PARET (a government-humanitarian liaison organization). 

The passengers – five women, two men and six children – were first brought to the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and Reconciliation where IOM provided them with basic return kits. The kits included basic hygiene materials including toothbrushes, soap, detergent, toothpaste, first aid kits and diapers for families with children. From there, the passengers were taken by bus to the 3rd district courthouse before they left for their respective homes.

“I have been separated from my wife and children for nearly a year and am overjoyed at their safe return home,” said Oumar Abakar, the head of one of the returning families’ households, who came to the airport to welcome his family of four. They had been separated for nearly a year.

IOM continues to support social cohesion activities in Bangassou and plans to expand its operations to support both displaced and host communities in the area with future funding.

For more information, please contact Cecilia Mann at IOM CAR, Tel: +236 72 34 80 37, Email: [email protected]

  • IOM facilitates the return of displaced families to their areas of origin from Central African Republic. Photo: IOM