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Syria

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of movement “within the territories of the state unless restricted by a judicial decision or by the implementation of laws.” The government, Da’esh, and other armed groups, however, restricted internal movement and travel and instituted security checkpoints to monitor such travel throughout the regions under their respective control. Government sieges in Homs, Damascus, Rif-Damascus, Deir al-Zour, and Idlib governorates resulted in documented cases of death, starvation, and severe malnutrition (see section 1.g.). Opposition forces imposed sieges on government-held areas in Aleppo governorate, cutting off water, electricity, fuel, and medicine. In areas under its control, Da’esh restricted the movement of government supporters or assumed supporters, especially the Alawi and Shia populations. Other opponents of the government also restricted the movement of such individuals, but to a lesser extent.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Both government and opposition forces reportedly besieged, shelled, and otherwise made practically inaccessible some Palestinian refugee camps, neighborhoods, and sites, which resulted in severe malnutrition, lack of access to medical care and humanitarian assistance, and civilian deaths.

In-country Movement: In government-besieged cities throughout the country, government forces blocked humanitarian access, leading to severe malnutrition, lack of access to medical care, and death, particularly in the cities of Zabadani, Douma, and Eastern Ghouta (see section 1.g.). According to OCHA, 590,000 persons remained in 18 besieged areas. The violence, coupled with significant cultural pressure, severely restricted the movement of women in many areas. Additionally, the law allows certain male relatives to place travel bans on women (see section 6, Women).

The government inconsistently cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in assisting internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. The government provided some cooperation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The government relied on security checkpoints to monitor and limit movement and expanded them into civilian areas. The government also barred foreign diplomats from visiting most parts of the country and rarely granted them permission to travel outside Damascus. The consistently high level and unpredictability of violence severely restricted movement throughout the country.

Da’esh and opposition groups also controlled movement, including with checkpoints.

Government forces reportedly used snipers to prevent protests, enforce curfews, target opposition forces, and in some cases to prevent civilians from fleeing besieged towns. According to the COI, the drive through long desert detour routes exposed passengers and drivers to arbitrary arrest, unlawful search and seizure of property, demands for bribes, and detention and execution at checkpoints administered by Da’esh, the government, and other armed actors.

Da’esh reportedly did not permit female passengers to traverse territory it controlled unless accompanied by a close male relative.

Foreign Travel: While citizens have the right to travel internationally, the government denied passports and other vital documents based on the applicant’s political views, association with opposition groups, or ties to geographic areas where the opposition dominated. The government also imposed exit visa requirements and routinely closed the Damascus airport and border crossings, claiming the closures were due to violence or threats of violence. Additionally, the government often banned travel by human rights or civil society activists, their families, and affiliates. Many citizens reportedly learned of the ban against their travel only when authorities prevented them from departing the country. The government reportedly applied travel bans without explanation or explicit duration, including in cases when individuals sought to travel for health reasons. The government comprehensively banned international travel of opposition members, often targeting any such individual who attempted to travel. Local media and human rights groups repeatedly stated that opposition activists and their families hesitated to leave the country, fearing attacks at airports and border crossings. In June, Turkish border guards killed 11 Syrian refugees when they attempted to flee from the country.

There were reports Da’esh destroyed Syrian passports and legal records and produced its own passports, not recognized by any country or entity. These policies disproportionately affected children, because many left the country before obtaining a passport or identification card. Additionally, Syrians born abroad to parents who fled the conflict and remained in refugee camps generally did not have access to Syrian citizenship documents. The government in 2015 began allowing Syrians living outside of the country whose passports expired to renew their passports at consulates. Many who fled as refugees, however, feared reporting to the government against which they may have protested or feared the government could direct reprisals against family members still in the country.

Women over 18 have the legal right to travel without the permission of male relatives, but a husband may file a request with the Interior Ministry to prohibit his wife from departing the country.

Da’esh explicitly prohibited women from foreign travel.

Emigration and Repatriation: On their return to the country, both persons who unsuccessfully sought asylum in other countries and those who had previous connections with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood faced prosecution. The law provides for the prosecution of any person who attempts to seek refuge in another country to evade penalty in Syria. The government routinely arrested dissidents and former citizens with no known political affiliation who attempted to return to the country after years or even decades of self-imposed exile. Many emigrants who did not complete mandatory military service could pay a fee to avoid conscription while visiting the country, but this option tended to vary by ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Authorities exempted from military service without payment persons of Syrian origin born in a foreign country but able to demonstrate service in the army of the country of birth.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The government largely did not facilitate humanitarian assistance for IDPs and provided inconsistent protection. During the year violence continued to be the primary reason for citizens to leave the country, much of the violence attributed to government and Russian aerial attacks. Years of conflict repeatedly displaced persons; each displacement depleted family assets and eroded coping mechanisms.

By the last quarter of the year, the United Nations estimated there were more than 6.1 million IDPs in the country. The government generally did not provide sustainable access for services to the IDP population and did not offer IDPs assistance or protection. UN humanitarian officials reported that most IDPs sought shelter with host communities or in collective centers, abandoned buildings, or informal camps. In the first half of the year, intensified fighting in the governorates of Aleppo and al-Hasakah displaced more than 900,000 citizens. In September fighting displaced an additional 100,000 persons in Hama governorate. Observers estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 persons, displaced from all parts of the country, remained stranded at the border with Jordan in a location known as “the berm.”

The SARC functioned as the main partner for international humanitarian organizations working inside the country to provide humanitarian assistance in both government- and opposition-controlled areas. Access difficulties–including those imposed by the government, Da’esh, and opposition groups–hindered the delivery of aid to persons in need. NGOs operating from Damascus faced extensive bureaucratic obstruction when attempting to provide relief to populations in need. The SARC and UN agencies sought to increase the flow of assistance to opposition-held areas to meet growing humanitarian needs. The government routinely disrupted the supply of humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas, particularly medical assistance (see section 1.g.).

The humanitarian response to the country was one of the largest in the world, coordinated through a complicated bureaucratic structure. The crisis inside the country continued to meet the UN criteria for a Level 3 response–the global humanitarian system’s classification for response to the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crises. Cross-border operations from Turkey and Jordan provided humanitarian assistance for Syrians. Additional assistance came through cross-line operations originating from Damascus. Since the International Syria Support Group’s Humanitarian Task Force began advocating for expanded access in February, the United Nations provided assistance to nearly 400,000 persons in 17 besieged areas, more than 817,000 in hard-to-reach locations, and 57,000 persons in priority cross-line areas, compared with 30,000 who received assistance in 2015. Assistance reached many besieged and hard-to-reach towns several times. Despite these efforts, however, the Asad government continued to hinder UN access, and many communities continued to suffer and surrender to the government’s “starve and kneel” tactics.

OCHA reported that during July no humanitarian assistance reached more than four million persons in the country’s hard-to-reach areas.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. UNHCR and UNRWA were able to maintain limited protection areas for refugees and asylum seekers, although violence hampered access to vulnerable populations. In coordination with both local and international nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations continued to provide such individuals essential services and assistance.

UNHCR estimated that at least 95,000 persons, mainly Yezidi Iraqis, entered the country following Da’esh attacks on Sinjar District in Iraq, beginning in 2014. Many initially fled to Mount Sinjar but managed to evacuate the mountain with the assistance of military strikes led by the Western coalition and support from Syrian Kurdish groups, who transported many Yezidis into the country. The majority of these persons returned to Iraq through the Iraqi Kurdistan Region; however, in June UNHCR estimated there were approximately 10,000 Iraqis in camps in al-Hasakah governorate, including 2,262 Yezidis in the Newroz camp, 2,330 Sunni Arabs in Roj camp, and 5,700 in al-Hol camp. There were also some Iraqis in the cities of Malkia, Qamishly, Amuda, and Derbasia.

Employment: The law does not explicitly grant refugees, except for Palestinians, the right to work. While the government rarely granted non-Palestinian refugees a work permit, many refugees found work in the informal sector as guards, construction workers, street vendors, and in other manual jobs.

Access to Basic Services: The law allows for the issuance of identity cards to Palestinian refugees and the same access to basic services provided to citizens. The government also allowed Iraqi refugees access to publicly available services, such as health care and education, but residency permits were available only to those refugees who entered Syria legally and possessed a valid passport, which did not include all refugees. The lack of access to residency permits issued by the Syrian authorities exposed refugees to risks of harassment and exploitation and severely affected their access to public services. The approximately 30,000 non-Palestinian refugees in the country faced growing protection risks, multiple displacements, tightened security procedures at checkpoints, and difficulty obtaining required residency permits, all of which resulted in restrictions on their freedom of movement. UNHCR reported a rise in sexual- and gender-based violence and child protection concerns among refugees, including child labor, school dropouts, and early marriages.

STATELESS PERSONS

Approximately 190,000 Kurds in the country are not entitled to Syrian nationality under the law. The government considered the Kurds to be foreigners, which denied them access to services. Following the 1962 census, approximately 150,000 Kurds lost their citizenship. A legislative decree ordained the single-day census in 1962, and the government executed it unannounced with regard to the inhabitants of al-Hasakah governorate. Government justification for this measure was to identify Kurds who had entered the country since 1945. Anyone not registered for any reason or without all required paperwork became “foreign” from that day onward. In similar fashion authorities recorded anyone who refused to participate as “undocumented.” Because of this loss of citizenship, these Kurds and their descendants lacked identity cards and could not access government services, including health care and education. They also faced social and economic discrimination. Stateless Kurds do not have the right to inherit or bequeath assets, and their lack of citizenship or identity documents restricted their travel to and from the country.

In 2011 President Asad issued a decree declaring that stateless Kurds in al-Hasakah governorate who were registered as “foreigners” could apply for citizenship. UNHCR reported that approximately 40,000 of these were still unable to obtain citizenship. Likewise, the decree did not extend to the approximately 160,000 “unregistered” stateless Kurds. The change from 150,000 to 160,000 reflected an approximate increase in population since the 1962 census.

Children derive citizenship solely from their father. Because women cannot confer nationality on their children, an unknown number of children whose fathers were missing or deceased due to the continuing conflict were at risk of statelessness. Mothers could not pass citizenship to children born outside the country, including in neighboring countries operating refugee camps.

Tajikistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

In-country Movement: The law provides for freedom of movement, but the government imposed some restrictions. The government prohibits foreigners, except diplomats and international aid workers, from traveling within a 15-mile zone along the borders with Afghanistan and China in the Khatlon Region and the Gorno-Badakhsan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) unless they obtain permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Officials did not always enforce the restrictions along the western border with Afghanistan, although the government continued to require travelers (including international workers and diplomats) to obtain special permits to visit the GBAO. The government also continued to enforce a policy barring Afghan refugees from residing in urban areas.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Nevertheless, the process for making asylum status determinations remained uncertain, lacking transparency, and administrative and judicial procedures did not comply with international standards. Although not required by law, government officials required refugees and asylum seekers to obtain a visa and a valid travel document before entering the country. Government officials without due process detained and deported individuals not in possession of a visa.

The government processed asylum applications through the National Refugee Status Determination Commission and granted applicants documents to regularize their stay and prevent deportation. Formal notifications of administrative and legal decisions provide little insight into the rationale for adjudications. In some instances, when denying claimants refugee status, officials cited, in broad terms, a lack of evidence of persecution in the refugee’s home country or “malpractice” on the part of refugees applying to renew their status, such as violation of the prohibition of living in big cities, including in Dushanbe. Unofficially, some refugees claimed authorities could deny cases if sufficiently high bribes were not paid.

The government continued to place significant restrictions on claimants, and officials continued to enforce a law decreed in 2000 prohibiting asylum seekers and refugees from residing in the capital and all major cities in the country. Security officials regularly monitored refugee populations. Asylum seekers and refugees regularly reported to UNHCR that security officials harassed them, often for allegedly lacking personal identification, and attempted to extort money. Police subjected them to raids if police believed they were residing in prohibited areas.

During the first seven months of the year the government deported five asylum seekers and refugees to Afghanistan. The deportees included rejected asylum seekers and refugees with revoked status based on violation of the law prohibiting such persons from residing in urban areas as well as cumbersome preconditions that preclude a claimant from registering as a refugee. Most of the cases of revoked status were under appeal in court with the support of UNHCR. The deportations took place despite the incomplete appeal processes. In some of these cases, there was risk of refoulement.

Although the law stipulates that refugee status be granted for as long as three years, the transfer of refugee processing to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 2009 resulted in much shorter periods of status being granted. According to government statistics, the country had 2,185 registered refugees, 98 percent of whom were Afghan. An additional 141 asylum seekers, mostly Afghan, were seeking refugee status.

Freedom of movement: Refugees are not permitted to live in major urban areas, including Dushanbe, according to Government Resolution 325, restricting their ability to find work and go to school.

Employment: An increasing percentage of refugees entering the country did not possess professional backgrounds or job skills, and many faced discrimination by the local population. The requirement to live outside urban areas created additional problems for finding adequate work. While UNHCR assisted some female refugees by providing vocational job training in skills such as sewing, cooking, and hairdressing, most female refugees remained in the home in accordance with traditional cultures. Most male refugees worked for small enterprises.

Access to Basic Services: Refugees and asylum seekers are legally entitled to education and health services alongside local citizens. The Ministry of Education allowed Afghan parents to send their children to local schools without paying fees. UNHCR partners provided books, school uniforms, and some language classes to these children and assisted with their medical expenses. The law provides registered refugees with equal access to law enforcement, health care, and the judicial system, although refugees did not always have equal access. In practice, refugees were subject to harassment, discrimination, and extortion.

Durable Solutions: Following the amended Law on Nationality adopted in August, refugees hold equal standing to non-refugee foreigners when applying for citizenship. Although the government and UNHCR agreed on local integration of refugees into the general population as a more durable solution to the refugee situation, there was little progress in processing pending cases to completion.

STATELESS PERSONS

As of July a reported 769 persons registered as stateless by the government. As of October 2016 UNHCR and its partners identified and registered as many as 23,150 individuals at risk of statelessness in three pilot provinces, (Khatlon, Sughd, and District of Republic Subordination), highlighting the potential extent of statelessness as well as the challenges and opportunities of facilitating solutions. Holders of former Soviet Union passports constituted the bulk of those at risk of statelessness, although a number of people, predominantly women, holding expired foreign passports came forward and sought counselling.

Tanzania

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. In late 2015 the government banned official international travel by civil servants without authorization from State House.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Refugees may not travel more than 2.5 miles outside their camp without permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Refugees apprehended outside the camps without permits are subject by law to sentences ranging from a fine up to a three-year prison sentence. UNHCR reported that when police apprehended refugees outside the camp without permits, they were normally held in the prison nearest to where they were arrested. Unless the infraction connected the detainee with another criminal issue, police generally released these individuals back into the camp, where camp officials sometimes ordered the refugee to perform community service.

Sexual and gender-based violence of refugees continued. UNHCR worked with local authorities and residents in the three refugee camps to strengthen coordination and address violence, including sexual violence, against vulnerable persons. UNHCR reported the most frequent gender-based violence crimes were rape and physical assault, followed by psychological and emotional abuse. The government investigated, prosecuted, and punished perpetrators of abuses in the camp; local authorities handled most cases of refugees involved in crime and abuse outside the camp. Residents of the refugee camps suffered delays and limited access to courts, common problems also faced by citizens.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The National Eligibility Committee (NEC) is mandated to meet regularly and make determinations on asylum applications, and was reviewing a backlog of several hundred claims.

During the year the NEC made formal determinations on pending asylum cases; most involved individuals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had been residing in Burundi.

During the year the government allowed UNHCR to reopen a third former refugee camp to accommodate the large increase in the refugee population resulting from instability in Burundi and to maintain prima facie refugee status for new Burundi arrivals. Third-country nationals who were previously recognized as refugees in Burundi, as well as Burundian citizens, were eligible for prima facie refugee status.

The international NGO Asylum Access reported many persons with refugee claims were living in Dar es Salaam. The government often treated these individuals as undocumented immigrants, deporting or imprisoning them if they faced criminal charges. Arrest was often the only situation in which the government came into contact with urban refugees. Observers believed many urban refugees, if given the opportunity, would be able to demonstrate a need for international protection that would qualify them for refugee status. Since urban refugees were not formally registered with UNHCR and the government, however, they had very little access to health care and education, and employment opportunities were limited to the informal sector. There was no policy or infrastructure to serve this group.

UNHCR processed irregular migrants arrested by authorities for possible asylum, but police continued to hold them in prisons.

From December 2014 to February 2015, the government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted a registration campaign for irregular migrants in Kigoma intended to provide a basis for either regularizing their status or voluntary return to their places of origin. The project registered 22,282 persons. Kigoma regional authorities stated an additional 400 persons had been registered since the end of the project. The IOM began a program to supply biometric registration equipment to immigration authorities across the country.

Safe Country of Origin/Transit: No policy for blanket or presumptive denials of asylum exists for applicants arriving from “safe country of origin” or through a “safe country of transit.” All asylum applications are evaluated individually. The law provides that, unless the transit country is experiencing a serious breach of peace, an asylum claim can be refused upon failure to show reasonable cause as to why asylum was not claimed in the transit country prior to entry into Tanzania.

Freedom of Movement: Encampment policy does not allow refugees to travel more than 2.5 miles outside the boundaries of official refugee camps without permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The ministry generally granted permission for purposes such as medical referrals and court appearances.

Employment: The government generally did not permit refugees to pursue employment and restricted refugees’ attempts to farm land within the camps.

Durable Solutions: In 2014 the Ministry of Home Affairs granted citizenship to 1,514 members of the Wazigua ethnic group (formerly known as Somali Bantu) and 162,156 Burundian refugees. In December 2015 the ministry reported that 98 percent of these persons had become citizens.

Thailand

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The interim constitution and the 2016 constitution provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights, with some exceptions for “maintaining the security of the state, public peace and order or public welfare, town and country planning, or youth welfare.”

Following the 2014 coup, the NCPO issued orders prohibiting travel outside the country for approximately 155 persons. In May the NCPO lifted the travel ban for approximately 130 of these persons, essentially those who were not otherwise facing criminal charges and subject to judicial travel restrictions. Prior to lifting the travel ban, the NCPO in March refused a request from journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk to travel to Finland to participate in a World Press Freedom Day event.

In addition to those initially subject to travel restrictions by NCPO order, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Center (TLHR) estimated there were an additional 300 persons who, when summoned to appear before the NCPO following the 2014 coup, signed agreements as a condition of their release consenting not to travel abroad without NCPO approval. According to the TLHR, the NCPO has not revoked the restrictions contained in these agreements.

The government usually cooperated with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern, although with some restrictions. Cooperation with UNHCR to protect certain groups remained uneven, which limited UNHCR’s ability to provide protection to all nationalities.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Media reports, Human Rights Watch, and other sources alleged government officials took bribes from and colluded with human smugglers and traffickers who detained Rohingya on islands and other locations in the south. In 2015 authorities confined in IDCs and shelters approximately 870 Rohingya and Bangladeshi persons who arrived in the country irregularly by boat during the mass movement in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea crisis of May 2015. As of December approximately 330 of them (mostly Rohingya) remained in detention.

Authorities continued to treat refugees and asylum seekers from Burma who lived outside of designated border camps, including Rohingya boat arrivals, as illegal migrants. Multidisciplinary teams conducted interviews and identified some of the Rohingya arrivals as victims of trafficking, and officials subsequently transferred them to shelters under the care of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Persons categorized as illegal migrants are legally subject to arrest and detention. The government worked in cooperation with donors and international organization partners to provide protection and assistance to Rohingya while in IDCs and shelters. The lack of Rohingya-speaking interpreters within IDCs and shelters remained a concern. Although reinstated in 2013, authorities implemented inconsistently the practice of permitting bail for detained refugees and asylum seekers originally initiated in 2011.

International humanitarian organizations noted concerns about congested conditions, lack of exercise opportunities, and limited freedom of movement in the IDCs. Some IDCs with Rohingya detainees lacked efficient medical referral mechanisms and failed to allow exercise due to fear the detainees would escape.

Authorities allowed some women and children, including unaccompanied minors whom officials certified were victims of trafficking, to stay in shelters operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Persons in these shelters often reported a lack of adequate human resources to meet the needs of running the facilities and providing adequate psychosocial services to shelter residents.

In-country Movement: The government restricted the free internal movement of members of hill tribes and other minority groups who were not citizens but held government-issued identity cards. Authorities prohibited holders of such cards from traveling outside their home districts without prior permission from the district office or outside their home provinces without permission from the provincial governor. Offenders are subject to fines or a jail term of 45 to 60 days. Persons without cards may not travel at all. Human rights organizations reported police at inland checkpoints often asked for bribes in exchange for allowing stateless persons to move from one district to another.

Foreign Travel: Local authorities also required other long-time noncitizen residents, including thousands of ethnic Shan and other non-hill-tribe minorities, to seek permission for foreign travel. A small number of Burmese refugees, who were approved for third-country resettlement but not recognized as refugees by the government because they reside outside the nine refugee camps, have awaited exit permits for years.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers remained inconsistent. Nevertheless, authorities hosted significant numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, generally provided protection against their expulsion or return, and allowed persons fleeing fighting or other incidents of violence in neighboring countries to cross the border and remain until conflict ceased. Moreover, authorities permitted non-Burmese refugees recognized by UNHCR and registered Burmese refugees residing in official refugee camps to resettle to third countries.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Burmese asylum seekers and refugees who reside outside official refugee camps are by law considered illegal migrants, as are all non-Burmese asylum seekers and refugees in the country if they do not hold a valid passport and visa. If arrested they are subject to indefinite detention at IDCs in Bangkok and other provinces.

UNHCR remained limited in its ability to provide protection to Lao Hmong, Uighurs, and Burmese outside the official camps as well as to all North Koreans. Its access to asylum seekers in the main IDC in Bangkok and at Suvarnabhumi International Airport to conduct status interviews and monitor new arrivals varied throughout the year. UNHCR had access to provincial IDCs where authorities detained ethnic Rohingya, including coastal Ranong Province and southern Songkhla Province, to conduct refugee status determinations. Authorities allowed resettlement countries to conduct processing activities in the IDCs, and humanitarian organizations were able to provide health care, nutritional support, and other humanitarian assistance.

The government allowed UNHCR to monitor the protection status of approximately 103,000 Burmese refugees and asylum seekers living in nine camps along the border with Burma but prohibited UNHCR from any assistance role in the camps. NGOs funded by the international community provided basic humanitarian assistance in the camps, including health care, food, education, shelter, water, sanitation, vocational training, and other services. UNHCR issued identification cards to registered refugees living in the camps.

The government facilitated resettlement for 3,479 Burmese refugees from camps as of December. Refugees residing in the nine camps along the border who had not registered with the government were ineligible for third-country resettlement.

An estimated 60,000 Burmese had not registered since the cessation of the Provincial Admissions Boards in 2005. In 2012 the government resumed limited admissions screening to consider only refugee cases under the family reunification criteria (parent/child or spousal relationships) through Fast Track Provincial Admission Boards (FTPAB). As of December authorities had received 3,246 cases with 8,208 persons (including 4,467 FTPAB-registered persons).

Refoulement: The government provided some protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where they would face threats to their lives or freedom because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Outside the camps government officials did not distinguish between asylum-seeking Burmese and other undocumented Burmese, regarding all as illegal migrants. Authorities generally took those arrested outside of the camps to the border and deported them back to their home country. Authorities generally did not deport persons of concern holding valid UNHCR asylum-seeker or refugee status; however, in 2015 authorities forcibly repatriated two Chinese activists to whom UNHCR had granted refugee status, and forcibly deported a vulnerable migrant group of 109 ethnic Uighurs to China. As of December approximately 60 Uighurs remained in detention in the country.

Immigration police in Bangkok arrested and detained asylum seekers and refugees, including women and children. The detained population fluctuated between 250 and 450 persons, depending on immigration raids and the release of detainees on bail. Government officials estimated the IDC in Bangkok repatriated 200 to 300 undocumented immigrant detainees per week. Authorities typically detained Burmese, Cambodian, and Laotian persons for approximately five days before repatriating them. In contrast, authorities often held detainees for a year or longer if they lacked assistance from their respective embassies, sought third-country resettlement, refused to return to their countries of origin, or lacked funds to pay for their trip home.

Freedom of movement: Refugees residing in the nine refugee camps on the border with Burma had no freedom of movement, and authorities confined them to the camps. In previous years authorities did not enforce this policy, and many refugees often left the camps for short periods to find work in the local economy. Following the 2014 coup, camp commanders began enforcing restrictions on camp residents, making freedom of movement outside the camps more difficult. A refugee apprehended outside the official camps is subject to harassment, fines, detention, deregistration, and deportation.

Refugees and asylum seekers were not eligible to participate in the official nationality verification process, which allows migrant workers with verified nationality and passports to travel throughout the country. Authorities restricted those holding only work permits from traveling outside the province where they work unless they first obtained official permission.

Employment: The law prohibits refugees from working in the country. The government allowed undocumented migrant workers from neighboring Burma, Cambodia, and Laos to work legally in certain economic sectors if they registered with authorities and followed a prescribed process to document their status (see section 7.d.). In March the government announced that victims of trafficking who cooperated with pending court cases would receive renewable one-year stay and work permits; however, as of December the program had not been implemented.

Access to Basic Services: The international community provided basic services for refugees living inside the nine camps on the border with Burma. For needs beyond primary care, a complicated medical referral system hampered the ability of refugees to seek some necessary medical services, although coordination among service providers improved the situation. For the urban refugee and asylum seeker population living in Bangkok, access to basic health services was minimal. Since 2014 two NGOs have provided primary and mental health-care services. UNHCR coordinated referrals of the most urgent medical cases to local hospitals.

Since Burmese refugee children living in the camps generally did not have access to the government education system, NGOs provided schooling opportunities, and some were able to coordinate their curriculum with the Ministry of Education. In Bangkok some refugee communities formed their own schools to provide education for their children. Others sought to learn Thai with support from UNHCR, because the law provides that government schools must admit children of any legal status who can speak, read, and write Thai with some degree of proficiency.

Temporary Protection: The government continued to extend temporary protection status to the migrants of Rohingya and Bangladeshi origin who arrived during the 2015 maritime migration crisis in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

STATELESS PERSONS

The government continued to identify stateless persons, provide documentation to preclude statelessness, and open paths to citizenship for long-time residents. According to the government, an estimated 487,000 persons, mainly residing in the northern region, were likely stateless or at risk of statelessness. Several NGOs reported that most stateless persons, many of whom were members of hill tribes, might be eligible for citizenship (see section 6). Others were migrants from Burma who did not have evidence of Burmese citizenship, ethnic minorities registered with civil authorities, previously undocumented minorities, and displaced persons residing in border camps. The government announced plans to reduce drastically the number of stateless persons, focusing initially on the citizenship applications of approximately 60,000 children.

Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship. The law bases citizenship on birth to at least one citizen parent, marriage to a male citizen, or naturalization. Individuals may also acquire citizenship by means of special government-designated criteria implemented by the Ministry of Interior with approval from the cabinet or in accordance with nationality law (see section 6). Amendments to the law during the year allowed ethnic Thai stateless persons and their children, who meet the added definition of “displaced Thai,” to apply for the status of “Thai nationality by birth,” but there were reports of slow, inconsistent implementation due to complicated laws and regulations and the existence of substantial gray areas.

The law stipulates every child born in the country receive an official birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status. Many parents did not obtain birth certificates for their children due to the complexity of the process, the need to travel from remote areas to district offices, and a lack of recognition of the importance of the document.

By law stateless members of hill tribes may not vote or own land, and their travel is restricted. Stateless persons also may not participate in certain occupations reserved for citizens, including farming, although authorities permitted noncitizen members of hill tribes to undertake subsistence agriculture. Stateless persons had difficulty accessing credit and government services, such as health care. Although education was technically accessible for all undocumented and stateless children, it was usually of poor quality. School administrators placed the term “non-Thai citizen” on these students’ high school certificates, which severely limited their economic opportunities. Some public universities still charged stateless and undocumented students higher tuition rates than citizens, and administrators commonly denied these students university student loans.

Without legal status stateless persons were particularly vulnerable to various forms of abuse (see section 6).

Togo

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

While the law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, the government restricted some of these rights.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

In-country Movement: Traffic police routinely stopped motorists on fabricated charges of violating traffic laws to solicit bribes.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: On March 3, the National Assembly passed a law in compliance with the Geneva Convention that defines the process for determining refugee status and created an appeals commission. The law defines the status of refugees and grants refugees protection, rights, and duties. It also created two commissions, the Appeals Commission (CR) and the National Commission for Refugees (CNR), with the existing Office of National Coordination of Refugees being the CNR’s permanent secretariat. The Ministry of Security and Civil Protection presides over the CNR, which comprises representatives from nine ministries, and heads the CR, which includes representatives from seven ministries.

Durable Solutions: The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commission for Refugees to assist in the safe, voluntary repatriation of refugees to their home countries. The government assisted in the repatriation of 29 refugees.

Tonga

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The country’s laws do not provide for the formal granting of asylum or refugee status. The principal immigration officer has wide discretionary powers under immigration laws, however, and may allow noncitizens to remain in the country.

Turkey

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, but the government limited these rights. The government restricted foreign travel for more than 100,000 citizens accused of links to the Gulen movement or the failed July 15 coup attempt. The government also limited freedom of movement for the 2.75 million persons from Syria as well as for the almost 300,000 persons from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries present in Turkey.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: Multiple sources reported that authorities denied entry to undocumented Iraqis and Syrians during the year. In late 2015 the government effectively closed its borders to all but extreme humanitarian cases. There were multiple reports during the year of Syrians who were turned back while attempting to enter the country as well as some reports of shootings and beating deaths by Turkish border guards. On May 10, HRW reported that, during March and April, border guards used violence against Syrian asylum seekers and smugglers, killing five persons, including a child, and seriously injuring 14 others, according to victims, witnesses, and Syrian locals interviewed by the organization. According to the HRA, during the first nine months of the year, security forces killed 41 persons and injured 37 at the country’s borders. UNHCR followed up on individual cases in collaboration with the Turkish authorities when it became aware of shooting incidents at the border, noting that it had dealt with five such incidents that had resulted in death of two persons during the year.

While incidents of societal violence directed against refugees and persons in refugee-like conditions remained rare, many refugees faced workplace exploitation. Forced prostitution, bride selling, and child labor also remained significant problems among refugees. Human rights groups alleged conditions in detention and removal centers sometimes limited migrants’ rights to communication with and access to family members and lawyers (also see Refoulement).

As of November UNHCR and its partner organization, the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, reported conducting 12 monitoring visits with government permission to removal centers during the year. Additionally, UNHCR conducted regular visits to the temporary reception center in Duzici/Osmaniye, where migrants readmitted from Greece were referred on temporary basis. UNHCR noted that physical conditions in the removal centers were consistent with international standards.

UNHCR reported more than 1,000 LGBTI asylum seekers and conditional refugees lived in the country, most of them from Iran. According to human rights groups, these refugees faced discrimination and hostility due to their status as members of the LGBTI community. On July 25, Mohammed Wisam Sankari, a gay Syrian under temporary protection, was found dead in Istanbul, the victim of an apparent hate crime. His throat was cut and his body was mutilated. Before his death Sankari had filed a complaint with police over previous assaults. As of year’s end, no suspects were arrested in the killing.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers awaiting resettlement to third countries (termed “conditional refugees”), stateless persons, and Syrians under temporary protection.

In-country Movement: The constitution provides that only a judge may limit citizens’ freedom to travel and only in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution. The state of emergency instituted on July 20, after the failed coup attempt, allowed the government to limit citizens’ movement without a court order.

Freedom of movement was a problem in the East and Southeast, where renewed conflict between the government and PKK members and supporters caused authorities to block roads and set up checkpoints, temporarily restricting movement. The government instituted special security zones where civilian entrance was restricted and established curfews in several provinces in response to PKK terrorist attacks (see section 1.g.).

Conditional refugees and Syrians under temporary protection also experienced restrictions on their freedom of movement (see Protection of Refugees).

Foreign Travel: The government placed restrictions on foreign travel for approximately 100,000 citizens accused of alleged links to the Gulen movement or the failed coup attempt. Travel restrictions were applied both to those accused directly of affiliation with the Gulen movement or other terrorist groups as well as to their extended family members. The government maintained these travel restrictions were necessary and authorized under the state of emergency.

Syrians under temporary protection risked the loss of temporary protection status and a possible bar on reentry to Turkey if they chose to travel to a third country. The government issued individual exit permissions for Syrians under temporary protection departing the country for family reunification, health treatment, or permanent resettlement, and required an individual exception for all other reasons. The government sometimes denied exit permission to Syrians under temporary protection for reasons that were unclear.

Non-Syrian conditional refugees accepted by a third country for resettlement through a UNHCR process also needed to obtain exit permission before leaving the country. UNHCR reported that, through the end of October, 5,584 Syrians under temporary protection received exit permission, and another 9,286 non-Syrian, conditional refugees, received exit permission to resettle to a third country.

During the year the government adopted a policy of prohibiting Syrians with education beyond a high school diploma from resettling to third countries. Hundreds of Syrians who had been identified for resettlement to third countries based on internationally defined vulnerabilities were denied permission to depart. For some, the denial occurred just days before planned departures and after the refugees had sold their goods and left their apartments, creating hardship. Despite their higher education, these refugees lacked reasonable employment opportunities in Turkey and, in some cases, were disabled or otherwise incapable of working. Late in the year, the government reviewed some individual cases of exit permission denial based on education.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The renewal of conflict in the Southeast in 2015 resulted in a significant increase in numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In February, Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu stated that the renewal of the conflict had displaced an estimated 355,000 persons since July 2015. In April a report prepared by the NGO Mazlumder estimated there were 100,000 displaced persons in Cizre alone.

Persons who were newly displaced in the region joined IDPs remaining from the conflict between security forces and the PKK between 1984 and the early 2000s. According to the Ministry of Interior, 386,360 persons had been displaced in earlier decades, of whom 190,000 eventually returned to their homes. At the end of 2013, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, an international NGO, estimated there were nearly one million IDPs in the country, most of whom were displaced between 1986 and 1995.

The law allows persons who suffered material losses due to terrorist acts, including those by the PKK or by security forces in response to terrorist acts, to apply to the government’s damage determination commissions for compensation. As of September the government reported it had distributed 123 million lira ($35 million) to the victims of displacement due to terrorism in the past. Since 1999 a total of 208 million lira ($60million) had been allocated from the ministry’s budget for provinces affected by a long-term rehabilitation project related to PKK violence.

In connection with the renewed PKK-government clashes from 2015-16, senior officials announced plans in February to reconstruct localities and properties in the Southeast damaged during clashes. The government did not provide figures for rehabilitation projects undertaken during the year in connection with property expropriations.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

The government took steps during the year to increase services provided to the more than three million refugees in the country. A March agreement between the government and the EU effectively contributed to reducing the flow of migrants via human smugglers into Europe, reducing the number of drownings in the Mediterranean during the year. The International Organization for Migration reported that 434 persons died while attempting to travel from Turkey to Greece, compared with 806 such deaths in 2015.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for standard treatment of asylum seekers countrywide and establishes a system of protection, but limits rights granted in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to refugees from Europe and establishes restrictions on movement for conditional refugees. While most non-European asylum seekers were not considered refugees under the law, the government granted temporary protection status to Syrians while maintaining conditional/subsidiary refugee status and providing international protection for other asylum seekers. Through July, UNHCR adjudicated refugee status for non-Syrian asylum seekers, while the government of Turkey did so for Syrians. After July a new protocol between the government and UNHCR moved adjudication responsibility for non-Syrian refugees to the government. Authorities offered protection against refoulement to all non-European asylum seekers who met the definition of a refugee in the 1951 convention. Those recognized by the government for temporary protection (Syrians) or conditional/subsidiary refugee status (all other non-Europeans, for example, Iraqis, Iranians, and Somalis) were permitted to reside in the country temporarily.

The law provides regulatory guidelines for foreigners’ entry into, stay in, and exit from the country and for protection of asylum seekers. The law does not have a strict time limit to apply for asylum, requiring only that asylum seekers do so “within a reasonable time” after arrival. The law also does not require asylum seekers to present a valid identity document to apply for status.

UNHCR reported that, as of September, approximately 125,879 Iraqis (of an estimated 300,000) in the country had entered UNHCR’s refugee status determination process. Additionally, as of September there were 113,756 Afghans, 28,534 Iranians, and 12,195 persons of other nationalities in UNHCR’s status determination process. The government reported there were 2,753,696 Syrians registered for temporary protection as of November 3. The government reported that, as of October 8, there were 255,125 Syrians and 6,394 Iraqis residing in government-run camps.

Refoulement: NGOs reported that during the year authorities deported dozens of Afghan and Iraqi migrants to their country of origin, some of them evidently against their will. UNHCR received several reports of persons in detention, including Iraqis and Syrians, who opted for voluntary repatriation, but it was unclear whether all deportations were truly voluntary. In April, AI alleged that authorities had forcibly returned more than 100 Syrian migrants, including unaccompanied children and some who had already registered for protection in the country.

UNHCR reported it had intermittent and not fully predictable access to the detention and removal centers where non-Syrians returned to Turkey from Greece were detained. UNHCR reported that it was unclear if all readmitted persons had access to the asylum procedure, and their access to information, interpretation services, and legal assistance was problematic.

Freedom of movement: Authorities assigned “conditional refugees” to one of 64 cities, where they received services from local authorities under the responsibility of provincial governorates. These asylum seekers were required to check in with local authorities on either a weekly or biweekly basis and needed permission from local authorities to travel to cities other than their assigned city, including for meetings with UNHCR or resettlement country representatives. Syrians under temporary protection were also restricted by a 2015 Ministry of Interior circular from traveling outside of provinces listed on their registration cards. Syrians were eligible for medical and other services and could qualify for a work permit, although these benefits were limited to the province in which they were registered. Syrians and non-Syrians could request permission to travel or to transfer their registration through the DGMM. Indigent Syrians were reportedly, at times, assembled and moved to government-run camps in the country’s South. Syrians living in government-run camps could generally come and go during the day, although authorities sometimes restricted this right.

Employment: On January 15, a law took effect granting Syrians under temporary protection the right to work, putting them in a situation similar to that of other conditional refugees, who could qualify for work permits once they had been resident in the country for six months. Applying for a work permit was the responsibility of the employer, and the procedure was sufficiently burdensome that few employers pursued legally hiring refugees. Consequently, the vast majority of both conditional refugees and Syrians under temporary protection remained without legal employment options. In October the government stated it had issued 3,175 work permits to Syrians since the law took effect. In January, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus stated that 7,351 Syrians had prior to the implementation of the legislation received work permission through other means, such as qualifying as legal foreign residents of Turkey or via humanitarian residency visas rather than as Syrians under temporary protection. Because permission to work legally was hard to obtain, many refugees remained vulnerable to exploitation, such as withholding of wages and exposure to unsafe work conditions.

Access to Basic Services: The government provided free access to the country’s public medical system to Syrians registered for temporary protection and subsidized medical care to other conditional refugees. The government also provided access to education for school-age children, but had limited resources to help them overcome the language barrier or fund transportation or other costs.

As of March the Ministry of National Education reported that 93 percent of Syrian children in camps and 26 percent of children outside of camps were in school. At the end of November, the Ministry of National Education reported that 160,915 Syrian children were enrolled in regular public schools, while 330,981 were enrolled in temporary education centers, for 491,896 school-age Syrian children in school. An estimated 41 percent (341,000) remained out of school during the 2016-17 school year.

Provincial governments, working with local NGOs, were responsible for meeting the basic needs of refugees and other asylum seekers assigned to satellite cities in their jurisdictions, as well as of the Syrians present in their districts. Basic services were dependent on local officials’ interpretation of the law and their resources. Governors had significant discretion in working with asylum seekers and NGOs, and the assistance provided by local officials to refugees and persons in refugee-like situations varied widely.

Durable Solutions: The law does not provide for durable solutions within the country for Syrians under temporary protection or for conditional refugees, but it allows them to stay until resettled to a foreign country or able to return to their country of origin.

Temporary Protection: The government enacted a temporary protection status regime in response to the arrival of Syrian refugees who did not qualify as refugees due to the European-origin limitation in the law. Authorities required Syrian asylum seekers to register with the DGMM to legalize their temporary stay in the country. Syrians who registered with the government were able to receive an identification card, which qualified them for assistance provided through the governorates, including free health care. Residents of the camps received significantly more assistance, including shelter, education, and food support.

Syrians who officially entered the country with passports could receive one-year residence permits upon registration with the government. UNHCR estimated that only 4 percent of the Syrian population in the country qualified for residency.

STATELESS PERSONS

According to UNHCR there were 780 stateless persons under its mandate as of the end of 2014, the last year for which data was available. Although the government provided documentation for babies born to conditional refugees and Syrians under temporary protection, statelessness remained an increasing concern for these children, who could receive neither Turkish citizenship nor documentation from their parents’ home country. According to the Turkish Health Institute, there were 177,000 babies born to Syrian mothers in the country between the beginning of the conflict in 2011 and November.

Turkmenistan

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law do not provide for full freedom of movement.

In-country Movement: The law requires internal passports and residency permits. Persons residing or working without residency permits face forcible removal to their place of registration. A requirement for a border permit remained in effect for all foreigners wishing to travel to border areas.

The law does not permit dual citizenship, and in 2015 the government terminated an agreement with Russia that previously provided an exception for certain dual Turkmen-Russian citizens. All dual citizens are obliged to renounce one of their citizenships if they want to travel outside the country. The process of renouncing Turkmen citizenship is not transparent and can take up to a year.

Foreign Travel: The government continued to bar certain citizens from departing under its Law on Migration. The law states that citizens of Turkmenistan may be denied exit from Turkmenistan “if their exit contravenes the interests of national security of Turkmenistan.” “Prove They Are Alive!” reported that any of the country’s law enforcement bodies can initiate a travel ban on a citizen and that travelers in various categories may be denied departure, including: young men obliged to military service, persons facing criminal and civil charges or under probationary sentence, relatives of persons reportedly connected and imprisoned for the 2002 alleged assassination attempt, as well as journalists, civil society activists, and their family members. Although the government denied maintaining a “black list” of local persons not permitted to travel abroad, ANT reported that such a list existed and contained approximately 17,000 names. According to various sources, in most cases, travelers who were stopped were not given an explanation for denial of departure and were only informed of the ban upon attempting foreign travel from the airport. Some individuals were able to obtain documentation from the State Migration Service later stating they were not allowed to depart the country, but without justification for the ban. In some cases authorities initially denied travelers departure from the country, but after several days, or in some cases weeks, the travelers were allowed to depart without explanation for the delay.

During the year the government allowed some persons previously banned from travel to depart the country. For instance, family members of emigrant opposition politician Pirimguly Tanrykuliev were allowed to depart the country after previously being informed they were banned from departing the country for life.

The government routinely prevented citizens from travelling abroad for programs sponsored by foreign governments, unless the program was specifically approved in advance by the foreign ministry. Migration officials often stopped “nonapproved” travelers at the airport and prevented them from leaving. In some cases, however, those traveling for approved programs were also not allowed to depart or were delayed.

The Law on Migration provides for restrictions on travel by citizens who have had access to state secrets, presented falsified personal information, committed a serious crime, were under surveillance, might become victims of trafficking, previously violated the law of the destination country, or whose travel contradicts the interests of national security. In some cases the law provides for time limits on the travel ban as well as fines for its infraction. Former public-sector employees who had access to state secrets were prevented from traveling abroad for five years after terminating their employment with the government. The law allows authorities to forbid recipients of presidential amnesties from traveling abroad for a period of up to two years. The law also allows the government to impose limitations on obtaining education in specific professions and specialties.

Exile: The law provides for internal exile, requiring persons to reside in a certain area for a fixed term of two to five years.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

While formally there is a system for granting refugee status, it was inactive. In 2009 the government assumed responsibility from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for making refugee status determinations but has not granted refugee status since. UNHCR had observer status at government-run refugee-status determination hearings. Persons determined by the government not to be refugees obtained mandate refugee status from UNHCR. Mandate refugees were required to renew UNHCR certificates with the government annually. In 2015 UNHCR reported that 27 UNHCR mandate refugees resided in the country, but it provided no updates for 2016. The country did not grant citizenship to any UNHCR mandate refugees during the year.

In 2014 the government amended the Law on Migration to permit refugees to receive, at no charge, biometric identification and travel documents compliant with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Access to Asylum: The laws provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country has not granted asylum since 2005.

STATELESS PERSONS

The country had a significant population of former Soviet Union citizens who became stateless due to the breakup of the Soviet Union. In December 2015 UNHCR estimated there were 7,111 stateless persons or persons of underdetermined nationality in the country. The number of stateless persons who were also refugees was not available. Citizenship is derived primarily from one’s parents. The requirement that applicants for citizenship prove they are not citizens of another country impeded efforts to establish the nationality of undocumented persons. According to UNHCR, however, in the past 10 years, the government granted citizenship to an estimated 18,000 stateless persons. During the year the government granted citizenship to 1,381 stateless persons residing in the country. In 2014 the government amended its Law on Migration to allow stateless persons to reside in the country legally and travel internationally with government-issued identification and travel documents.

Undocumented stateless persons did not have access to public benefits, education, or employment opportunities.

Uganda

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has an established system for providing protection to refugees. The government has consistently provided a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers. As of November 1, UNHCR, in partnership with the government, had identified an estimated 898,000 refugees and asylum seekers of different nationalities. Of these, 270,000 were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 476,000 from South Sudan. Other countries of origin included Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, and Eritrea. The government provided adequate protection to refugees, including temporary protection, resettlement, and other long-term solutions.

As of July there were 39,000 asylum seekers in the country. According to UNHCR, the government made little progress in clearing the backlog because the Refugee Appeals Board has not operated since 2014.

The government did not fulfill UNHCR’s 2012-13 recommendation to implement a cessation clause and lift the blanket refugee status conferred on approximately 4,000 Rwandan refugees who arrived in the country prior to 1999. The government stated it would not invoke the cessation clause while ambiguities concerning the local integration and permanent legal status for these long-term refugees remained unresolved. The government had yet to fully implement administrative processes for the naturalization of refugees who fell within the scope of the October 2015 Constitutional Court ruling, which allows long-staying refugees (in most cases, requiring more than 20 years’ presence) to obtain citizenship through naturalization.

Access to Basic Services: Although the government granted refugees the same access as citizens to public health, education, and other services, there were anecdotal reports of discrimination against some refugees due to language barriers or xenophobia. The Refugee Commission of the Office of the Prime Minister, UNHCR, its implementing partners, and other NGOs worked to reduce barriers to access.

Durable Solutions: The government did not accept refugees for resettlement from foreign countries, but it facilitated UNHCR efforts to resettle refugees in foreign countries. The government assisted the safe and voluntary return of refugees to their homes.

United Arab Emirates

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law generally provided for freedom of internal movement, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights; however, the government imposed certain legal restrictions on foreign travel. The government allowed the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern. The lack of passports or other identity documents restricted the movement of stateless persons, both within the country and internationally.

Foreign Travel: Authorities generally did not permit citizens and residents involved in legal disputes under adjudication, and noncitizens under investigation to travel abroad. In addition, authorities sometimes arrested individuals with outstanding debts or legal cases while in transit through an airport.

At the sole discretion of emirate-level prosecutors, foreign nationals had their passports taken or travel restricted during criminal and civil investigations, which in some cases times posed significant difficulties. Some were also banned from foreign travel. These measures posed particular problems for noncitizen debtors, who in addition to being unable to leave the country, were usually unable to find work without a passport and valid residence permit, and as a result were unable to repay their debts or maintain legal residency.

Travel bans could also be placed on citizens; citizens of interest for reasons of state security, including former political prisoners, also encountered difficulties renewing official documents, resulting in de facto travel bans.

Authorities did not lift travel bans until the completion of a case in the judicial system. In complex cases, particularly in the investigation of financial crimes, travel bans remained in place for three years or more.

Custom dictates that a husband may prevent his wife, minor children, and adult unmarried daughters from leaving the country by taking custody of their passports.

Citizenship: The government may revoke naturalized citizens’ passports and citizenship status for criminal or politically provocative actions. According to AI, in March authorities confiscated the passports and revoked the citizenship of three siblings whose father had been convicted previously of membership in Al Islah, a group the government designated as a terrorist organization.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

UNHCR lacked formal legal status in the country separate from the UN Development Program; however, the government worked with UNHCR on a case-by-case basis to address refugee issues. The government did not formally grant refugee status or asylum to aliens seeking protection; however, it allowed some refugees to remain in the country temporarily on an individual basis. This nonpermanent status often presented administrative, financial, and social hardships, including the need frequently to renew visas and the inability to access basic services such as health care and education for children.

Access to Asylum: The law does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government had not established a transparent, codified system for providing protection to refugees. While the government extended informal protection from return to refugees in some cases, any persons lacking legal residency status were technically subject to local laws on illegal immigrants and authorities could detain them. There were no reports, however, that the government sent individuals who expressed a fear of return back to their country of origin against their will. In some cases authorities confined individuals seeking protection at an airport to a specific section of the airport while they awaited resettlement in another country.

Access to Basic Services: Access to employment, education, and other public services, including health care, is based on an individual’s status as a legal resident. Persons with a claim to refugee status, including those with either short-term visitor visas or expired visas, were generally not eligible for such benefits, and as a result some families, particularly from Iraq and Syria, reportedly did not have access to healthcare or school for children. The government provided or allowed access to some services on a case-by-case basis, often after the intervention of UNHCR representatives.

STATELESS PERSONS

Estimates suggested 20,000 to 100,000 bidoon, or persons without citizenship, resided in the country. Most bidoon lacked citizenship because they did not have the preferred tribal affiliation used to determine citizenship when the country was established. Others entered the country legally or illegally in search of employment. Because children derive citizenship generally from the father, bidoon children born within the country’s territory remained stateless. Without passports or other forms of identification, the movement of bidoon was restricted, both within the country and internationally.

The government has a naturalization process, and individuals may apply for citizenship. Children of female citizens married to noncitizens do not acquire citizenship automatically at birth, but their mothers may obtain citizenship for the children after submitting an application, which a government committee reviews and generally accepts, once the child is 18 years old. A foreign woman may receive citizenship after 10 years of marriage to a citizen. Anyone may receive a passport by presidential fiat.

The committee that reviews mothers’ citizenship applications for their children also reviews citizenship applications from bidoon who could satisfy certain legal conditions to be eligible for naturalization and subsequently could gain access to education, health care, and other public services. There were no reports, however, of stateless persons receiving Emirati citizenship.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future