“We needed to seek asylum somewhere where there was peace. Tanzania was the closest country. But to live, we need something to live, somewhere to sleep. We didn’t come with anything like money,” says Lwenga, a Congolese refugee in Dar es Salaam. He tells this to me as he explains why he, other Congolese and Tanzanians are working together in a small soap-making business.
It’s not an easy business. Lwenga and Esale—another refugee—must take several kilos of the boiled fruit of the oil palm tree and press them in what they call a “local machine” to extract the oil. This takes two men and several hours. “With this machine,” says Lwenga, “it takes the whole day. You arrive, start extracting and then you can work until night.”
Christian Pangilinan is the Georgetown Fellow and a Volunteer Legal Advocate at Asylum Access Tanzania. This post draws from a paper he presented at the African Conference on International Law on October 5, 2012 on the “Potential of the African Court on Creating a Binding Regional Framework for Refugee Protection.”
By Christian Pangilinan
As Marina Sharpe explained earlier on this blog, refugees in Africa are entitled to social and economic rights under the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. These include a right to wage-earning employment that is equal to that of other foreign nationals lawfully resident in a country, a right to engage in agriculture and industry on terms no less favorable than resident aliens, as well as various welfare rights.
Although the 1969 OAU Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa did not expressly guarantee these rights, the 1969 Convention does identify itself as the regional complement of the 1951 Convention and its acknowledgment that the 1951 Convention as the “basic and universal instrument relating to the status of refugees” (Sharpe presents two other arguments in her blog post).
Asylum Access has just released a new report, No Place Called Home, presenting the findings of a 2010 survey of urban refugees living in Dar es Salaam. The aim of the study is to establish the existence of an urban population in Dar es Salaam with genuine claims to refugee status – and thus rights under Tanzanian and international law. In addition, Asylum Access sought to better understand the protection needs of this population, of which no official estimation exists.