Can I Apply For Asylum If I'm From The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)?

Instability in DRC is a major source of claims for asylum in the United States.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a very large country in Central Africa with many natural resources. It remains, however, one of the most unstable countries in Africa, even after the “official” end of civil war occurred in 2003. Multiple rebel groups continue to fight against the government and each other, especially in provinces outside of the capital, Kinshasa.

According to the U.S. State Department  Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  for 2013, the conflict in the eastern DRC intensified in 2012. The State Department also notes that many of the human rights abuses perpetrated can be considered war crimes.

In Kinshasa, government forces often harm people, especially when security forces attack peaceful demonstrators. For general conditions in DRC, see the State Department  Alerts and Warnings for DRC, April 23, 2014.

Do Many People Gain Asylum From DRC?

During the civil war, many DRC nationals won  asylum  in the United States. Though fewer DRC nationals have been arriving in the U.S. and asking for asylum in subsequent years, those who can convince an immigration judge or asylum officer that they are from DRC are usually granted.

What Type of Asylum Claims Are Typical From DRC?

The most typical claim from the DRC is that a person was persecuted or fears persecution on account of political opinion, nationality, or particular social group.

Applicants who come from Kinshasa often name the government as their persecutor. These applicants could have been harmed or arrested during what began as a peaceful demonstration. Nationals who come from other provinces, such as Kivu and Katanga, are often harmed by rebel forces that attack civilians with different tribal affiliations. In these cases, the persecution is considered to be on account of race, nationality, or social group.

Although women suffer extreme abuse in DRC, including rape and other sexual violence, most are not able to leave Congo or get to the United States. More than 2.7 million people are displaced within DRC but few have the resources to leave the country.

What Are Common Reasons for Denial of Asylum Claims From DRC?

Conflict in DRC is widely reported, so that asylum applicants can easily support claims with country-conditions information. Refugees who fled DRC without identification may have difficulty proving to the judge or officer that they are citizens of DRC. It is possible that a judge or officer will not grant asylum if you have not proven your identity.

What Can Nationals of DRC Do to Increase Their Chances of a Successful Asylum Claim?

It is important to provide identity documents to prove you are from the DRC. Passports are the best form of proof, but any national identification should be helpful. It is also important to detail your experience so that the judge or officer can connect any persecution or fear of persecution with your political opinion, race, nationality, or social group (in a DRC case, most likely your clan).

Many applicants from DRC who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) visit a therapist, who can provide a report to submit with the asylum application. People suffering from PTSD should seriously consider consulting with an attorney experienced in asylum law to assist them in preparing their claim.

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