The Right to Non-discrimination and the Protection of Foreigners
Status within the CEMAC Sub-region: The case of Cameroon, Chad and Gabon
Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon have a series of proliferated laws, legal provisions,
and institutions having overlapping mandates in various documents regarding the
protection and promotion of foreigners’ rights residing in their respective
territories. Despite the available laws, international law remains the main
instrument that regulates foreigners’ treatment within the States. Since the
creation of CEMAC, member States as a whole and Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon in
particular have established credible policies in protecting foreigners living
within their respective territories. Even though with the establishment of laws,
these laws, for a long period, have become obscure and obsolete. Migrants
continue to experience aspects of violence, discrimination, and expulsion
regardless of the status they occupy. States, on their part, suffer especially
when these foreigners indulge in fraudulent activities that affect the security
and sovereignty of the state.
These problems faced by migrants despite the availability of local
laws on foreigners’ protection have instigated the posing of questions in order
to ascertain the adequacy of the lawful protection of foreigners in Cameroon,
Chad, and Gabon.
The concept of discrimination have been considered as one of the vices that
affect the effective protection of human right practice and enforcement in any
state encouraging and promoting human right protection and safety. The
government of Cameroon, Chad and Gabon has taken the initiatives in curbing and
eradicating discriminatory practice especially those melted on foreigners’
taking up residence in their respective territories.
1.1 Cameroon Actions as to Non-Discrimination
In Cameroon, gender is irrelevant to the acquisition of legal
personality. The status of legal persons resulting from the acquisition of legal
personality implies that men and women have the same possibility to enjoy and
exercise their rights. The concept of equality, on which the human rights
enshrined in the Constitution are based, underlies the recognition of the rights
of a legal person.
In practice, however, various discriminatory acts and situations
occur in Cameroonian. This infringement of the equality recognised to all legal
persons is a consequence of the phallocentric pattern of a traditional society
still robust in Cameroon, a sexist attitude attributing to women and girls an
inferior place. Because of their numerical superiority, however, women
contribute decisively to society's development efforts and to nation building.
Under article 3 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural
Rights, the State must restore the precedence of law over sociological
impediments, which justifies the adoption of measures against gender-based
discrimination, the promotion of the gender approach and the debate on
enshrining gender parity in the Constitution.
Such measures aim at reducing the gender gap in the enjoyment and
exercise of rights necessitates the development of policies and programmes, the
adoption of legal instruments and the creation of institutions addressing issues
related to women's rights, and the development of projects for the promotion of
such rights. This task falls within the competence of the Ministry of Employment
and Vocational Training,responsible for the development and implementation
of measures related to the respect for women's rights in society, the
elimination of all forms discrimination against women, the reinforcement of
equality safeguards in the political, economic, social, and cultural areas, and
the implementation of a national policy on the family.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms the
principle of equality as follows: "All human beings are born free and equal in
dignity and rights." Cameroon ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Discrimination against Women on 23 August 1994 and acceded to its
Optional Protocol of 6 October 1999 on 1 November 2004. At the domestic level,
the preamble of the Constitution lays down the principle of gender equality by
stating that, "the human person, without distinction as to race, religion, sex
or belief, possesses inalienable and sacred rights;" and provides that "all
persons shall have equal rights and obligations." The State guarantees to all
citizens of either sex the rights and freedoms enumerated in the preamble of the
Constitution. Regarding the Civil Code, legal personality is attributed to men
and women. Under article 16 of the Civil Code, "a woman has full legal
personality, whose exercise is limited only by the marriage contract and the
Article 1 of the Cameroon Penal Code lays down the principle of
equality of all before the law in the following terms: "the Cameroon Criminal
law shall apply to all without exception." There is no specific provision
punishing Female Genital Mutilation, which is generally repressed as assault or
aggravated assault, namely an offence against a person's physical integrity that
the Criminal Code specifies and punishes.
To fill that gap, a draft Act on the repression of gender-based
violence and discrimination has been prepared, with specific provisions against
Female Genital Mutilation and marital violence. At the social level, the Labour
Code and other social security texts contain a number of provisions aimed at
women's well-being and protection. For instance, article 84 (1) of the Labour
Code allows a pregnant woman to break her employment contract without notice or
the concomitant obligation to pay compensation, while the employer may not break
such a contract on the grounds of the worker's pregnancy.
Under article 84 (2) of the Labour Code, a pregnant woman is
entitled to a 14-week maternity leave, which may be extended by six weeks in the
event of a duly diagnosed disease resulting from the pregnancy or the
childbirth. Article 61 of the Labour Code lays down the principle of equal pay
for work of equal value, regardless of sex, age or status.
The entry into force of Law No. 2005/006 of 27 July 2005 on the
status of refugees in Cameroon demonstrates the resolve of the Government of
Cameroon to combat even more determinedly discrimination affecting refugees.
Under article 9 of the law, Cameroon’s legislature accords refugees the exercise
of the following fundamental rights, within the limits of the rights accorded to
citizens of Cameroon.
This equivalence of treatment is further contained in article 10,
paragraph 1, of the law, according to which:
As regards the exercise of an activity as an employed or self-employed person,
and without exemption from taxes and duties, as well as in regard to the social
rights linked to the exercise of such activity, persons recognised as refugees
shall be accorded the same treatment as nationals.
According to paragraph 2, "persons recognized as refugees, shall be
accorded the same treatment as national, the right to become naturalized in
relation to access to education, the right to enrol at school and university and
the costs of student welfare services." This policy of treating refugees in the
same way as Cameroonian nationals reflects the absolute determination of the
Government of Cameroon to eliminate any form of discrimination based on
This effort by the Cameroon government in eliminating and curbing
discriminatory practices has gone a long way in providing safety and protection
to its citizens and even to foreigners. Foreigners will not be comfortable in
taking up residence in any given state where discriminatory practices will be
melted on them. To this the provisions of several legal texts giving room for
non-discriminatory practices and ensuring their implementation and enforcement
is a perfect ground to show how the country go a long way in protecting those
residing in their territory be it nationals or foreigners. There is a great
difference between the enactment of laws and its implementation. The country
continues to witness sporadic increase in the rate of human right violation and
discriminated practice on its citizens and even on the migrants residing in the
country.This practice have greatly affected the human right situation and
those foreigners’ coming or staying in country.
Chad and its Non-Discriminatory Policies
The Chadian State is concerned with ensuring the development of the
economic, social and cultural rights of all nationals be it foreigners residing
in their territory. The measures often taken to exploit resources or introduce
particular policies are underpinned by a desire to advance the welfare of
As regards legislation, the Constitution of the Republic of Chad
contains provisions that clearly affirm the recognition of economic, social, and
This is the case in the following examples:
• Freedom of association recognized under article 28 of the Constitution. Under
this provision, all citizens residing in Chad are free to join the trade union
of their choice.
• The right to strike recognized and provided for explicitly under article 29.
However, the Constitution provides that this right must be exercised within the
framework of the laws that regulate it.
The law makes the dissolution of associations, political parties and
trade unions subject to the conditions provided for by their statutes or to
legal procedures.Everyone entering and staying legally in Chad must have
employment without discriminationand the State recognizes the right to work
of all citizens. It guarantees workers fair remuneration for their services or
output. No one may be prejudiced in his work on account of his origin, opinion,
belief, sex, or marital status.
Chad has accepted the principle set out in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights and ratified other United Nations instruments that ensure the
protection of economic, social, and cultural rights. Chad guarantees everyone
equality before the law regardless of origin, race, sex, religion, political
opinion or social status.The Constitution thus provides under article 14,
second paragraph, that the State has a duty to ensure the elimination of all
forms of discrimination against women and to guarantee the protection of their
rights in all areas of private and public life.
It is clear in this respect that discrimination relating to
economic, social, and cultural rights is prohibited. With regard to foreigners,
with the exception of the political rights reserved solely for nationals, they
enjoy the same rights as nationalswithin the limits of the law, as set out
in the Covenant.
This aspect of non-discrimination is also adumbrated in article
18 of the Convention dealing with migrants workers by stating that;
1. Migrant workers and members of their families shall have the right to
equality with nationals of the State concerned before the courts and tribunals.
In the determination of any criminal charge against them or of their rights and
obligations in a suit of law, they shall be entitled to a fair and public
hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
2. Migrant workers and members of their families who are charged with a
criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proven
guilty according to law.
3. In the determination of any criminal charge against them, migrant workers and
members of their families shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees:
them, in any case where the interests of justice so require and without payment
by them in any such case if they do not have sufficient means to pay;
(e) To examine or have examined the witnesses against them and to obtain the
attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same
conditions as witnesses against them;
(f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or
speak the language used in court;
(g) Not to be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt.
4. In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such that it will
take into account of their age and the desirability of promoting their
5. Migrant workers and members of their families convicted of a crime shall have
the right to their conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal
according to law.
6. When a migrant worker or a member of his or her family has, by a final
decision, been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his or her
conviction has been reversed or he or she has been pardoned on the ground that a
new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a
miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of
such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that
the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable
to that person.
Section 18 of the 1990 Migrant Worker Convention emphasise that the
principle of equality should be respected by all states harbouring migrant
workers. These workers should be offer the same protection and accessibility to
fundamental services of states without discrimination. This section stipulated
that migrant workers in Chad should not be discriminated upon when it comes to
issues pertaining to the application and procedure in acquiring justice before
the Chadian National when such migrant is allege of committing a crime. The same
procedure followed by a Chadian national should also applied to a migrant worker
and his family.
The problem here is that, Chad has not ratified the said convention
and this explained the constant violation of migrant workers’ rights in the
country. To respect international prescription, Article 15 of the Constitution
provides that "Foreigners who have been admitted legally to the territory of the
Republic of Chad enjoy the same rights and freedoms as nationals, excluding
political rights. They are required to abide by the Constitution and the laws
and regulations of the Republic." This therefore means that in Chad foreigners
have the same rights as nationals. This is not completely true because the
unstable nature of the country has a negative effect on foreigner involved in
huge investment in the country. Setting up a business in the country has been
blemished with many irregularitiesand discrimination. Nationals are given
privilege to the detriment of foreigners who reside in the territory.
The Position of the Gabonese Government
On the part of Gabon, the government works tirelessly to promote and
observe economic, social, and cultural rights in its State without any trace of
discrimination as to persons living there. Most of the action she has undertaken
falls under activities aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Her
activities take the form of projects and programs that allow the issue of human
rights to be clearly taken into account. Article 170 of the Labour Code retakes
article 3 of the Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, 1966. It
states that foreigners have the same rights and obligations under labour
legislation, subject to the special provisions of the law. On 1stJuly 1974, the
Office of the High Commissioner for the Advancement of Foreign Women was created
with a mandate to address issues relating specifically to foreign women. In
1983, the Office became the State Secretariat for the Advancement of Women
charged with the responsibility to introduce and implement gender policy. In
February 1999, the State Secretariat became the Ministry for the Family and the
Advancement of Women.This then became the Ministry of Health, Social
Affairs, Solidarity, and the Family in 2009. This institution has promoted and
protected the rights of women in accordance with that provided for in
international convention especially the on the Elimination of all form of
practices against women in 1989. This Convention has provided for equality of
all women and fighting illegal practices against women. However, the Ministry
have face lots of difficulties in accomplishing its mission and objective due to
lack of human and financial resources. The insufficient materials and resources
in monitoring the situation of women especially migrant women have affected the
extent of application of these non-discriminatory practices on migrant and thus
affecting their rights and status.
Law No.05/86 of 16 June 1986 provides for the regime of admission
and stay of foreigners in the Republic of Gabon. This law is implemented through
Decree No. 6/86 of 18 June 1989 for the establishment of a special fund for
immigration and Decree No. 999/PR of 31 July 1986 regulating the modalities of
issuance of residence permit. The residence permit is valid for two years and is
renewable. The law is applicable to foreigners and stateless persons who are
visiting Gabon for less than three months, as well as those who wish to reside
for a period longer than three months. Decree No.999/PR of 31 July 1986,
regulates the conditions for applying for the residence permits, which vary for
each category of residence.
According to Article 10 of the Refugee Law, refugees are entitled to
the same treatment as nationals with respect to access to education,
registration fees at school and at university, and access to basic social
services. Article 11 stipulates that regarding access to and conditions of
employment, refugees will be treated in the same manner as nationals. Refugees
are issued with renewable refugee ID cards free of charge, which are valid for
two years. However, under Decree 646, asylum-seekers are not allowed to work in
With the transformation of refugee status to a foreign resident status in
Gabon,in the absence of any specific statutory instrument for refugees, the
only existing relevant law is Law No. 05/86. The law provides "the regime of
admission and stay of foreigner in the Republic of Gabon," as well as for
conditions and rights attached to residence permit in Gabon. The treatment
reserved to a foreign resident by Law No. 05/86 of 16 June 1986 is not the same
as that reserved to refugees under the Refugee Law. Furthermore, asylum-seekers
who are not authorized to work by virtue of Decree 646 experience difficulties
in acquiring residence permits, as employment is one of the pre-conditions for
granting residence in Gabon under Law 05/86.
A number of refugees are married to Gabonese nationals and have
children born in Gabon. The Nationality Codesets out conditions and
modalities for eligibility to obtain nationality. This could either be by
originor acquisition.Furthermore, those children born from mixed
marriage, whereby either parent has Gabonese nationality, or those foreigners
married to Gabonese nationals, can easily acquire nationality. Acquisition of
Gabonese nationality through naturalisation is less accessible and is a lengthy
and costly procedure. No measures have been taken to facilitate naturalisation
procedures for refugees, even though Article 34 of the 1951 Refugee Convention
provides that the Contracting States shall make every effort to expedite
naturalisation proceedings for refugees and to reduce, as far as possible, the
charges and costs of such proceedings.
Inconsistencies Affecting the Rights of Discriminatory Practises on Migrant
In Cameroon, Chad And Gabon
The progress in the protection of migrants’ status in Cameroon,
Chad, and Gabon has met with inadequate achievement owing to several obstacles
hindering the effective protection of those taking up residence in these States.
These obstacles or impediments come as a result of the ineffectiveness or
restriction imposed on Humanitarian agencies whose main role is that of
monitoring and implementing international standard put in place to provide
foreigners residing in foreign states with protection. Most of the activities of
these organisations are violated by the states where they operate, or they may
sometimes lack the available facilities to protect these migrants. Apart from
the international perspective, national institutions, particularly the human
rights commission created to enhance human rights protection especially of
migrants have experienced lots of difficulties in seeing that the effective
protection of the status of these special categories of persons comes to
reality. Such inconsistencies faced by migrants on their status cannot just be
limited on the institutions, but also extend to the lacunae of the law enacted
by these respective member states. Most of their laws to an extent negatively
affect the foreigners who decide to take up residence in the respective state.
The laws set in place usually violate the human rights of these people making
life unbearable for them.
Xenophobia, Violence, Discrimination and Racism
As noted in previous paragraphs, migrant are often subjected to
discrimination because of their colour and race, or their actual or perceived
religion, or a combination of these, and they may be the target of unfavourable
treatment simply because of their migrant status.Women migrant workers, who
make up half the total, can be doubly penalized. The plight of migrant workers
is a growing concern, since foreign-born workers represent significantly a
rising proportion of the workforce in many countries. Estimated at 4 million,
migrant persons in these countries and some 32 million in other developing
regions, the movement of men and women seeking better job opportunities in these
countries are likely to increase in the coming years.Ten per cent of the
workforce in Chad, Cameroon, and Gabon are currently made up of migrants, while
in a number of Asian or American countries percentages are higher, representing
over 50 per cent of the workforce in some Gulf States. One manifestation of
discrimination against migrants is their concentration, often regardless of
their skill levels in 3D jobswhere protection is often inadequate or
absent in law or in practice.
Although these member States tend to grant documented
migrantde jure equality of treatment with nationals as regards remuneration,
hours of work, holidays with pay, and minimum age, they face a variety of
employment restrictions.The incidence and extent of differential treatment
may vary depending on whether migrants are permanent or temporal and whether
they are high skilled or low skilled. National migration policies are more
inclined to provide for equal opportunities and treatment between nationals and
migrant workers in high-skilled positions than those in unskilled and low-status
jobs. High-skilled migrants are usually offered more guarantees to shift towards
permanent settlement than the low skilled. Such preferences are doubly hard on
low-skilled workers, who are already particularly vulnerable to exploitation and
violations of their rights. If low skills are the result of denied equal
opportunities in education or at work in their countries of origin because of
their sex or religion or race, inferior treatment of low-skilled migrant workers
in destination countries further aggravates discrimination. Resistance towards
providing equal treatment with nationals is much stronger in respect of social
security rights, employment mobility, and access to employment and vocational
training. The provision of alternative employment, relief work, and re-training
often depends on whether the migrants are temporal or permanent settlers, which
is contrary to the provisions of ILO standards, including the Migrant Workers
Convention, 1975. This is an important issue, especially in the light of the
steady increase in temporary workers’ programs that often bind migrant workers
to the same employer or may require them to leave the country immediately after
termination of the contract, and to return only after a certain period of time.
These temporary schemes discourage settlement of migrant workers in the country,
which in practice often has the effect of excluding them from equal treatment
Regional integration schemes grant some nationalities privileges
over others, with member States extending equality of opportunity and treatment
to migrant workers from countries within the same regional integration,but
not to persons who are not citizens of a Member State. However, there have been
some encouraging developments in the form of Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon
regulations granting equal treatment to third-country nationals legally residing
in the country.Moreover, despite the fact that these Countries do not
support permanent immigration, there seems to be a growing recognition that in
some sectors it may be desirable.
The circumstances of migrant workers in an irregular situation are
of special concern. In the event of breach of national law by employers, they
may find it difficult to claim the rights they do have or to seek redress in the
courts, as these countries do not provide for such a possibility or for the
right of these workers to have access to legal proceedings in a language they
understand. Moreover, in these countries an undocumented migrant worker who is
seized by the competent authorities does not have the opportunity or time to
request payment of wages and benefits due or to lodge an appeal. The protection
of the fundamental rights of migrants in an irregular situation, including
protection against racial, ethnic or sex discrimination, is illusory if they do
not have access to legal procedures.
On a positive note, trade unions around these countries have
increasingly taken steps to address the plight of migrants. For instance, there
has been an increase in bilateral or multilateral agreements concluded by unions
from origin and destination countriesto assist migrant workers and combat
their exploitation, one example being the agreement signed by Cameroon and the
Chinese government in 2010. Another interesting initiative is the "CEMAC
Passport" launched among the CEMAC Member countries, which, since 2005, allows a
migrant worker who is already a member of a union in his or her country of
origin to be hosted by another member union in the host country.
Another fundamental challenge that migrants faced and which greatly
affect their status and right is the fact that these migrants or foreigners live
difficult life as they adjust to new communities and cultures. Most of them
cannot adapt to the country’s ways of life and policies. The main challenges
that migrants residing in Gabon, Cameroon, and Chad face are that of health
because of the climate which affects their health status. According to a report
gotten from the World Health Organisation, report of 2012,most foreigners
living in Chad encounter serious health problem due to the mild climate of the
area. The same situation of climate and health problem is experienced in
Cameroon and Gabon.For example, the situations of refugees are deplorable
where problem of illnesses related to malnutrition, such as calcium deficiency
and anaemia are reported regularly.
Furthermore, culture is another prominent issue. The fact that most
of the countries in the CEMAC region have a mixed culture and spheres of life
makes it difficult for foreigners to adapt themselves to this. This was the
situation in Chad where we discovered that most of the foreigners find it
difficult to adapt themselves to the culture of the country. For example, the
nature of food, living standard and language (the majority of the citizens speak
"fulbe" and this pose communication difficult) make it a problem to those who
have acquired legal status to reside in this country. Most of the citizens in
Chad consider those of the Western World as foreigners due to their race, colour,
language, and even religion.
Added to the above, the access to some basic facilities in these
countries constitutes a challenge and impediment affecting migrants’ status.
Such situation is common with foreign students coming to these countries to
pursue their educational carrier. Most of them find it difficult to adapt
themselves to the living condition and standards of living in the areas. It is a
great challenge for foreign students to have access to some basic facilities
especially at the level of lodging as owners use this as an advantage to enrich
themselves through increase of charges of foreigners. Foreign students face
discrimination in all aspects of life making it uncomfortable for them to live
and adapt to the ways of life in the country. Even access to employment is
another problem. Having a job in these countries is a problem; employers become
very sceptical to offer jobs to foreigners, and even when they have one, they
cannot meet up with their basic necessities since remuneration is so menial and
low compared to that of their country of origin. With a high unemployment rate
among the local population of Cameroon, the ability for refugees to compete for
limited job opportunities is more difficult. According to a UNHCR
representative, "Cameroon has a great deal of educated people, so competing in
the job market is not easy for refugees as highly qualified Cameroonians are
already employed."All refugees interviewed in this research were very clear
to make the point that it is not easy for them to find work in Cameroon, and
that every day is a struggle living in Yaounde.Several refugees in Cameroon
are unable to find a job that matches their skill set, and because of
non-recognition of education or previous experience gained, many refugees often
suffer from underemployment. They cannot enjoy the same facilities that national
employees’ get from their employers; some of these foreigners are discriminated
upon when dealing with advantages of employment. Most of them believe that they
are suffering in these residing countries and they cannot even stay for the
normal period of application, and they are forced to return to their country of
Emotional isolation is also experienced. Coming into a region for
the first time especially for those migrants having families, they find it
difficult staying in a new environment and relating with the people around them.
Some always feel isolated and abandoned since they are far away from their
families and loved ones. This factor really affects the foreigners negatively
making them loose their sense of belonging notwithstanding the comfortable and
favourable treatment offered to them by these receiving States.Even some
business migrants coming to do business cannot cope due to the treatment they
receive in these countries. Most often, the modalities of acquiring business
licenses, the business arena in which they operate, makes it impossible for them
to adapt. They complain of the high tax charges offered them by receiving States
and even sometimes acquiring a document is a problem due to long and difficult
procedure that this country poses. This makes it difficult especially for those
foreigners from the north who think that the investment climate in Cameroon,
Chad, and Gabon are not favourable.
Arbitrary Expulsion and Deportation
The principle of non-refoulement prohibiting States to transfer
anyone to a country where he or she faces a real risk of persecution or serious
violation. Human right is a fundamental principle of international law and one
of the strongest limitations on the right of States is to control entry into
their territory and to expel aliens as an expression of their sovereignty. For
example, by virtue of sections 7 (1) and 15 of Law No. 2005/006, it is forbidden
to extradite, turn back,or to take any measures whatsoever which force
anyone, covered by the above definition, to return or remain in a country where
his life, physical integrity or freedom could be threatened. If such a person
is an illegal immigrant, no criminal sanction may be taken against him, but he
shall present himself, without delay, to competent national authorities for
regularization of his situation.A refugee shall enjoy economic and social
rights and especially the right to naturalization. Even Chad and Gabon have to
discourage the arbitrary expelling of aliens from their territory since they
considered this as violation to fundamental human rights of all. The situation
becomes different for the purpose of public peace, order and security as the
said person can be extradite forcefully to his country of origin for fear of
insecurity and his involvement in other crimes that can affect public order and
peace. But such expulsion should be done with the permission of the state of
origin of the alien since it is forbidden by law to send back somebody where the
person will face torture or persecution in the country expelled to.This has
not been the case with the countries under consideration, where most of them
used the pretext of expulsion as a means of maintaining public peace and
security stipulating that foreigners are the primary suspects of criminal
activities and encourage all types of illegal activities.
We see, for example that in 2017 Sudanese refugees were asked to
leave Chadian territory under the pretext that they were engaged in all sorts of
criminal activities affecting the security and peace of the state. The same
situation occurred in June 2018 where Cameroonians living in Equatorial Guinea
were beaten and some of their documents even seized because they were considered
to constitute a threat to the security of the Guinean sovereignty and their stay
was increasing cause of the high crime waves of the country.
Also, the same situation occurred in Gabon in 2008 where it was held
that there were a high percentage of about 40% foreigners living in Gabon, and
most of them were from neighbouring countrieswho came in to compete with
nationals making it sometimes difficult for the Gabonese nationals to have
access to job. This situation made Gabonese nationals to consider foreigners as
intruders, making life and the atmosphere to be very uncomfortable for them, and
sometimes incriminated them and as such left the government with no other choice
than to except such persons from its territory.
It is said that under international human rights law, detention of
asylum seekers or undocumented migrants, either on entry to the country or
pending deportation, must not be arbitrary and must be carried out pursuant to a
legal provision.By International standards relating to immigration control,
detention should be the exception rather than the rule, and should be a measure
of last resort, to be imposed only where other less restrictive alternatives,
such as reporting requirements or restrictions on residence, are not feasible in
the individual case. The mere fact that a detained migrant is free to leave a
place of detention by agreeing to depart from the country does not mean that the
detention is not a deprivation of liberty. The right to liberty and security of
the person under international human rights law requires that deprivation of
liberty be justified, must be in accordance with the law, and must not be
arbitrary. Deprivation of liberty may be "arbitrary" either because it is not
based on a legitimate basis for detention or because it does not follow
procedural requirements. An essential safeguard against arbitrary detention is
that, law must adequately prescribe all detentions. This reflects the general
human rights law principle of legal certainty, by which individuals should be
able to foresee, to the greatest extent possible, the consequences which the law
may have for the acts. The need for legal certainty is regarded as particularly
vital in cases where individual liberty is at stake.
The principle of
prescription by law has two essential aspects:
- That detention be in accordance with national law and procedures;
- That national law and procedures should be of sufficient quality to protect
the individual from arbitrariness.
Under international law and standards, foreign nationals in prisons
are permitted reasonable facilities to communicate with diplomatic
representatives of their State.Those without diplomatic representation in
the country, or refugees or stateless persons, shall be allowed reasonable
facilities to communicate with their relevant diplomatic representative, or any
national or international authority whose task is to protect such
persons.Chadian legislation also protects foreigners in detention.
According to the Chadian law, detained foreigners have special protection and
the country of their nationality must be informed by the prison administration
of the reasons of their detention, the place where they are detained and the
conditions of their detention.Detained refugees and asylum seekers are
subject to specific protections under international law and standards, including
Article 16 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, as well as under Article 21 of the
Migrants who were accused of illegal entry into a country were held
in police custody in most of these countries,but the treatment given to
them was deplorable and some were even sent to prison where the conditions of
living were harsh and amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or
punishment.Detention facilities were overcrowded and prisoners often had no
access to adequate health services and other basic facilities. Many of the
prisoners were sick and malnourished. Foreigners in this side of the country
continued to be arrested and detained without charge by ANS members, and in some
cases were prevented from receiving visits from any friends or love ones,
doctors or lawyers. The police and gendarmerie-detained persons for civil
matters, contrary to provisions of the Chadian Constitution and laws. Conditions
remained harsh, amounting to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Cells were
overcrowded, and food and drinking water were inadequate. There was no health
care in prisons, including for serious transmissible diseases such as
tuberculosis. Men, women and children were held together indiscriminately in the
majority of prisons. No mechanisms were in place to allow prisoners to complain
about their treatment. Inmates were often chained in the prisons in Abéché, Sarh
The same situation of migrants being held in detention is also
experienced in Cameroon and Gabon and this greatly affects the status of
migrants residing in this state thus rendering protection inadequate and
inefficient. It is the responsibility of states to offer absolute protection to
foreigners who reside in their territories and even if they commits crimes or
have illegally entered the territory, their fundamental human rights have to be
protected and guaranteed to the letter. Nevertheless, migrants or foreigners
continue to experience violation of their rights and liberties making the
international community to have a negative impression of the country in question
when it concerns matters of foreigners’ protection.
The existence of much international, regional and local legislation aimed at
protecting migrants in Cameroon, Chad and Gabon shows the laudable efforts made
by these countries to deal with immigration issues and that of migrant
protection. Despite all the efforts by international humanitarian, human
rights, migration, labour and refugee laws, it is surprising that refugees and
migrants residing in Cameroon, Chad and Gabon continue to face many challenges
which have rendered or posed a threat on the livelihood of these persons, thus
creating a non-conducive environment for habitation.
The numerous problems faced by refugees and migrant persons
including inadequate housing, feeding, accommodation and even threats to their
standards of living, bring to light many worries to the international community
making them pose many questions as to the effectiveness of available
international instruments set in place in providing relief and protection to
those engaged in immigration. There is an increase in the number of rampant
violation of migrants’ rights and status especially in the Asian and African
continents and CEMAC sub-region in particular.
Cameroon, Chad and Gabon have taken great efforts to see
to the application of these international and regional commitments through
national laws like the constitution, labour laws, penal codes, immigration laws,
those on trafficking as well as those governing refugees and asylum seekers in
The putting in place of these laws and regulatory frameworks in
these countries have offered some degree of protection and guarantees on
foreigners or migrants’ rights like those relating to employment, education,
business security, property, health and a list of other protections. The legal
texts governing migrants’ protection in these countries have made provisions in
their national laws conforming to those provided for in regional and
international laws, to provide adequate protection of migrants’ status and right
through the fighting and sanctioning of those discriminatory practices meted
against migrants in their territories. This guarantee and protection of migrant
rights by these countries’ national laws and regulations have been helpful in
attracting foreigners to reside in the various member states.
Notwithstanding all these initiatives and commitments instituted by Cameroon,
Chad and Gabon through the enactment of laws and creation of institutions to
protect migrants’ rights and status, all these have been considered as window
dressing. Theory does not provide a definite answer to the question whether the
protection offered to migrants in these countries through their various national
laws and policies and even the creation of institutions are guaranteed. In other
word, there seem to be an automatic difference between law making and law
implementation. To create laws and institutions is one thing, and to implement
the laws and see to it that the institutions perform their assigned tasks is
Report on the Human Right Practice, Amnesty International Human Right Report,
Decree No. 000013/PR/MFPF of 7 January 2002.
Law No. 37/98 of 20 July 1999 initiating the Gabon Nationality Code
Towards a fair deal for migrant workers in the global economy, Report VI,
International Labour Conference, 92nd Session, Geneva, 2004; OSCE; IOM; ILO:
Handbook on establishing effective labour migration policies in countries of
origin and destination (Vienna, 2006).
OSCE; IOM; ILO:Meeting the Challenges of Migrants Workers in Central AfricaP.
Council Directive 2003/109/CEMAC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of
third-country nationals who are long-term residents, Official Journal lL 0 16,
23 Jan. 2004, P. 0044–0053
World Health Organization World Statistic Report 2012 in Chad P. 213
No. 0000348/DGSN/CAB and No. 0000349/DGSN/CAB of 17 October 2008
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), rule 38(1); Bangkok
Rules, rule 53
SMR, rule 38 (2); Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any
Form of Detention or Imprisonment, UNGA RES.43/173 , 9 December 1988,
Ordinance No 32/PR/2011, 4 October 2011, article 36 of Chad
Human Right Reports on the Practice of Human Right in Cameroon, Chad, and Gabon,
Amnesty International Report 2013 on the stakes of Human Rights Situation in
Nana Charles Nguindip, PhD in Law, Senior Lecturer in Law, Faculty of Laws
and Political Sciences, Department of English Private Law
Ministry of Employment and Professional Training.
These rights include that as tonon-discrimination, freedom of religious
practice, right to property, the right of association, the right to be a party
to legal proceedings, the right to work, the right to education, housing,
social welfare and public assistance, free movement, to obtain identity
documents and travel documents and the right to transfer of assets.
The Country Report on the Human Right Practice, Amnesty International Human
Right Report, 2012.
Constitution, article 30.
Ibid, article 3.
Ibid, article 14.
Ibid, article 18.
This is a report given by a Malian citizen that intend doing business in
Chad that it takes several months before the Chadian authority could offer him a
license to operate, and even when such permission is granted, he received
discrimination and increase in tax rate something not experienced by Chadian
Decree No. 000013/PR/MFPF of 7 January 2002.
Residents, contractors, independent workers, owners, lessees or pensioners,
as well as family members of a resident.
The transformation of refugee status to a foreign resident status in Gabon
was an option foreseen in the context of the comprehensive durable solutions
strategy for the Congolese refugees in the framework of cessation of their
Law No. 37/98 of 20 July 1999 initiating the Gabon Nationality Code.
Birth, filiations, and recognition.
Marriage, adoption, naturalization and reintegration.
This is the case ofMs. Marie Loubaky who experienced many difficulties
since she became a refugee. She no longer had a permanent job with a steady
income to support her family. She and her family had lost their former high
social standing and, as Congolese refugees, became a marginalized and
discriminated part of Gabonese society. As a refugee she was subjected to verbal
abuse and sexual insinuations from the Gabonese police. Marie was used to take
care of her children by herself but, as a refugee, the absence of a spouse made
her and her family even more vulnerable to physical and mental abuse. Moreover,
her affiliation with the former government of Congo-Brazzaville and her work as
a journalist put her at risk politically in Gabon. As such, around the time of
the Gabonese presidential elections of autumn 2005, Marie's situation became
extremely precarious. The unease and the fear for forcible removals increased
among the Congolese refugee community and Ms. Loubaky felt threatened. It was
clear that Marie's safety could no longer be guaranteed and that she needed to
leave Gabon for a safe country of asylum.
"Towards a fair deal for migrant workers in the global economy",Report VI,
International Labour Conference, 92nd Session, Geneva, 2004; OSCE; IOM; ILO:
Handbook on establishing effective labour migration policies in countries of
origin and destination (Vienna, 2006).
Dirty, dangerous and degrading.
Ibid,"Towards a fair deal for migrant workers in the global economy", P.
150–165 (agriculture), 173–178 (sweatshops), 181–194 (care economy, domestic
work) and, to some extent, 166–172 (construction).
Such persons cannot hold high posts of responsibilities in the said
countries due to the fact that they are considered as foreigners with little or
no aspect of recognition meant to perform only particular functions of less
OSCE; IOM; ILO:Meeting the Challenges of Migrants Workers in Central
This is the case of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon considered as
the giants of the CEMAC Sub-Regional Integration Communities.
Council Directive 2003/109/CEMAC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status
of third-country nationals who are long-term residents, Official Journal lL 0
16, 23 Jan. 2004, P. 0044–0053. Under the Directive, Member States will
recognize long-term resident status after five years’ continuous legal
residence. They would be guaranteed equal treatment with CEMAC nationals with
respect to most socio-economic rights.
This done mostly by the countries having embassy in the said country who
usually hold talks with the host countries of the migrants to discuss the way
forward and possible ways in which the conditions of foreigners in the in these
countries especially those seeking employment and working in the said countries.
This situation is different in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea who are still
dragging their feet as far as free movement of persons with the CEMAC is
concerned. The situation has not change notwithstanding the CEMAC Passport.
World Health Organization World Statistic Report 2012 in Chad P. 213.
This was the information gotten from a German National who came to Cameroon
the first time on the 14thof January 2012. "I find it very difficult to adapt
with the climate due to the harshness particularly in the Littoral Region where
the wildness of the climate makes it impossible for me to live in this area of
the country and I thought in the first instance to go back home."
Interviewed rendered by Commissioner of the UNHCR in Yaoundé, Cameroon at
9:30 am on Tuesday July 9th2013 as to the situation and challenges of refugees
residing in Cameroon.
Diallo, a Senegalese refugee living in Yaoundé through an interview on
Wednesday 10 July 2013 talking on the living condition here in Yaoundé.
"Notwithstanding the friendly nature of Cameroonian around me, I am really
enjoying my stay here, but the fact that my family and ones are still in America
makes feel isolated and abandon, I finds it difficult to interact and make new
friends here in Cameroon, it seems as if I am dead cause most of friends are in
the State and this make me sometimes to have that anxiety to go back home"
interviewed granted on the 13thof June 2013 by an American Citizen working in
On the 8 October 2008, 2 police officers (NDAM IBRAHIM and NDAM AMADOU)
illegally arrested a refugee from Equatorial Guinea and made him to return to
his country. By Decisions No. 0000348/DGSN/CAB and No. 0000349/DGSN/CAB of 17
October 2008, the Delegate general of National Security suspended the said
officers for period of three months.
Section 8 of the same law.
Ibid, Section 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention which talks about the
principles of non-refoulement.
BBC Africa news 9th June 2011 on the problems faced by Cameroonians living
in Equatorial Guinea giving rise to several Cameroonians repatriated to their
These countries include Central Africa Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan,
Nigeria and others who sees Gabon as a country with high employment
opportunities due to the high and vibrant nature of the economy.
Article 9 International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, Article 5
European Convention on Human Right, Article 6 Africa Charter on Human and People
Rights, Article 7 America Convention on Human Right, Articles I and XXV ADRDM,
Article 14 ACHR.
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), rule 38(1);
Bangkok Rules, rule 53.
SMR, rule 38 (2); Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons
under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, UNGA RES.43/173 , 9 December 1988,
Ordinance No 32/PR/2011, 4 October 2011, article 36 of Chad.
The Human Right Reports on the Practice of Human Right in Cameroon, Chad,
and Gabon, 2012.
Amnesty International Report 2013 on the stakes of Human Rights Situation
Nana Charles Nguindip
Senior Lecturer at Law, Faculty of Laws and Political Sciences
Department of English Private Law, Dschang
P.O Box 96, Dschang, Cameroon
Lawyers in Cameroon